British Escherichia coli O157 in Cattle Study (BECS): to determine the prevalence of E. coli O157 in herds with cattle destined for the food chain

MK Henry, SC Tongue, J Evans, C Webster, IJ McKendrick, M Morgan, A Willett, A Reeves, RW Humphry, DL Gally, GJ Gunn, ME Chase-Topping

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Escherichia coli O157 are zoonotic bacteria for which cattle are an important reservoir. Prevalence estimates for E. coli O157 in British cattle for human consumption are over ten years old. A new baseline is needed to inform current human health risk. The British E. coli O157 in Cattle Study (BECS) ran between September 2014 and November 2015 on 270 farms across Scotland and England & Wales. This is the first study to be conducted contemporaneously across Great Britain, thus enabling comparison between Scotland and England & Wales. Herd-level prevalence estimates for E. coli O157 did not differ significantly for Scotland (0.236, 95% CI 0.166 – 0.325) and England & Wales (0.213, 95% CI 0.156 – 0.283) (P = 0.65). The majority of isolates were verocytotoxin positive. A higher proportion of samples from Scotland were in the super-shedder category, though there was no difference between the surveys in the likelihood of a positive farm having at least one super-shedder sample. E. coli O157 continues to be common in British beef cattle, reaffirming public health policy that contact with cattle and their environments is a potential infection source.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3168 - 3179
Number of pages12
JournalEpidemiology and Infection
Issue number15
Early online date19 Sep 2017
Publication statusFirst published - 19 Sep 2017

Bibliographical note



  • Bovine
  • Epidemiology
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • Estimating disease prevalence
  • O157


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