The disease-causing bacterium E. coli O157:H7 is present but rare in some wildlife species of California's agriculturally rich Central Coast region, an area often referred to as the nation's "salad bowl," reports a team or researchers led by a UC Davis scientist.
The researchers, who are nearing completion of a massive field study to help identify potential sources of E. coli O157:H7 near Central Coast farms, presented their findings today during the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego. They reported finding occasional E. coli O157:H7 infections in fecal samples of wildlife species common to the area, including cowbirds, coyotes, crows, mice and feral pigs.
Based on their findings, the researchers recommend that farmers in this region continue to follow "good agricultural practices," a set of accepted, on-farm procedures designed to protect crops from contamination during production and harvest (http://ucgaps.ucdavis.edu/).
The study was spurred by a 2006 nationwide E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to fresh, bagged spinach grown in California; the outbreak resulted in 205 reported illnesses and three deaths.
"The study helps us better understand the possible risk of crop contamination from wildlife and allows us to compare that to the risk of contamination from other possible sources such as livestock and irrigation water," said lead study author Michele Jay-Russell, a veterinarian at UC Davis' Western Institute for Food Safety and Security.
"We are sharing this data with the produce industry, regulators, and conservation groups to help improve prevention strategies that protect public health and preserve native wildlife populations and their habitats," she said.
E. coli O157:H7 poses a serious human health threat, commonly causing abdominal cramps and diarrhea, sometimes bloody. Severe infections may
|Contact: Pat Bailey|
University of California - Davis - Health System