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Super-shedding cattle and the transmission dynamics of Escherichia coli O157

  • L. MATTHEWS (a1), I. J. McKENDRICK (a2), H. TERNENT (a3), G. J. GUNN (a3), B. SYNGE (a3) and M. E. J. WOOLHOUSE (a1)...

Summary

The prevalence of Escherichia coli O157 displays striking variability across the Scottish cattle population. On 78% of farms, in a cross-sectional survey of 952, no shedding of E. coli O157 was detected, but on a small proportion, ∼2%, very high prevalences of infection were found (with 90–100% of pats sampled being positive). We ask whether this variation arises from the inherent stochasticity in transmission dynamics or whether it is a signature of underlying heterogeneities in the cattle population. A novel approach is taken whereby the cross-sectional data are viewed as providing independent snapshots of a dynamic process. Using maximum-likelihood methods to fit time-dependent epidemiological models to the data we obtain estimates for the rates of immigration and transmission of E. coli O157 infection – parameters which have not been previously quantified in the literature. A comparison of alternative model fits reveals that the variation in the prevalence data is best explained when a proportion of the cattle are assumed to transmit infection at much higher levels than the rest – the so-called super-shedders. Analysis of a second dataset, comprising samples taken from 32 farms at monthly intervals over a period of 1 year, additionally yields an estimate for the rate of recovery from infection. The pattern of prevalence displayed in the second dataset also strongly supports the super-shedder hypothesis.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence: Dr L. Matthews, Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Roslin, Midlothian, EH25 9RG, UK. (Email: louise.matthews@ed.ac.uk)

References

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Epidemiology & Infection
  • ISSN: 0950-2688
  • EISSN: 1469-4409
  • URL: /core/journals/epidemiology-and-infection
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