Project Number: 8042-32000-091-00
Start Date: Dec 08, 2010
End Date: Dec 07, 2015
Dairy cattle are known reservoirs for zoonotic bacterial pathogens and the two main products from dairy cattle production, milk and meat, are sources of human gastrointestinal illness. Although pasteurization and regulations controlling the processing of any products made with unpasteurized milk have an excellent record of assuring the biological safety of dairy products marketed in the U.S., there is increasing concern about the presence of zoonotic pathogenic microorganisms in raw milk. For various cultural and economic reasons the consumption of raw milk and desire for products made from raw milk seems to be increasing and outbreaks of foodborne disease due to contamination of dairy products have been documented. This project focuses on the ecology of the zoonotic bacterial pathogens Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and enterohemmorhagic Escherichia coli on dairy farms in the Northeastern United States, and the relationship of the pathogens found in farm animals and the farm environment with those found in bulk tank milk from those farms. Conventional and molecular methods will be used to detect the occurrence of, and study the survival of foodborne pathogens on commercial dairy farms. Long-term, longitudinal studies of the introduction and fate of these three pathogens will be conducted on dairy farms with the goal of reducing their transmission to bulk tank milk. In addition, the contribution of cull dairy cattle to the contamination of beef by Shiga-toxigenic E. coli will be investigated. The phenotypic properties of Salmonella isolated during the study will be investigated in order to identify strain characteristics that contribute to their colonization of dairy cows and persistence in the farm environment. Modern nucleic acid sequencing techniques will be used to analyze the genomes of strains with exceptional abilty to colonize dairy cows and compare them with other strains of the pathogens with the goal of identifying microbial factors and processes that contribute to the ability of the organisms to colonize cows and to survive in the dairy environment. Information obtained through genome sequencing will be used to develop molecular methods for rapid strain typing of dairy-associated Salmonella strains in order to aid epidemiological investigations. Shiga-toxigenic E. coli will be isolated from the feces of cows, calves leaving the farm, heifers returning to the farm, and cows to be sold for slaughter. These strains will be characterized as to serotype and pathogenic genotype in order to determine the likely contribution of cull dairy cows to contamination of beef by Shiga-toxigenic E. coli. Additionally, the relationships between Listeria monocytogenes isolates from the farm and those associated with human disease will be investigated by testing farm strains for the presence of known virulence-associated genes. Lastly, the intestinal bacterial metagenomes of cows colonized by pathogens will be determined and compared to the metagenomes of non-pathogen shedding cows within the same herd in order to delineate differences in the gut bacterial populations that lead to colonization of the animal by zoonotic pathogens.