A new study suggests that the addition of dried distillers’ grain, an ethanol by-product, to cattle feed may contribute to the prevalence of E. coli O157 infection in cattle. The researchers from Kansas State University, Manhattan report their findings in the January 2008 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Escherichia coli O157 is a significant food-borne pathogen of which cattle are major reservoirs. Colonization by E. coli O157 in cattle occurs in the gut and is shed in the feces. Diet is considered to be one of the factors influencing the prevalence and shedding of E. coli O157, emphasizing the need to examine dietary components and their impact on the physiological environment of the gut and the survival of E. coli O157.
Distillers’ grain is the coproduct that remains following the distillation of ethanol. It may be dehydrated to produce dried distillers’ grain (DDG) which is then commonly used as livestock feed. In the study cattle were administered one of three diets including: no dried distillers’ grain, steam-flaked corn and 15% corn silage with 0 to 25% dried distillers’ grains, or steam-flaked corn with 5% corn silage and 25% dried distillers’ grains, after which fecal samples were collected and tested for E. coli O157. Results showed that cattle fed with 25% dried distillers’ grains and 5% or 15% silage had higher prevalence of E. coli O157 than cattle fed a diet without dried distillers’ grains.
“The results indicate that there is a positive association between dried distillers’ grain and E. coli O157 in cattle, and the findings should have important ramifications for food safety,” say the researchers.
Reference: M.E. Jacob, J.T. Fox, J.S. Drouillard, D.G. Renter, T.G. Nagaraja. 2008. Effects of dried distillers’ grain on fecal prevalence and growth of Escherichia coli O157 in batch culture fermentations from cattle. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 74. 1: 38-43.
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