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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Food and Feed Safety Research

Title: Isolation of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella from migratory brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater), common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula), and cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis)

item Callaway, Todd
item Edrington, Thomas
item Nisbet, David

Submitted to: Foodborne Pathogens and Disease
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 12, 2014
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 are foodborne pathogenic bacteria that can be transmitted by birds, such as starlings, on farms. The present study demonstrated that migratory birds associated with cattle carried both Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7; 15% and 4% of samples respectively contained these pathogenic bacteria. Migratory birds examined in this study were brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater), common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula), and cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis).

Technical Abstract: Foodborne pathogenic bacteria can live in the intestinal tract of birds and can be transmitted to food animals or humans via fecal contact. In the present study, cecal samples were collected from 376 migratory birds from species often associated with cattle during the fall migration in the Central Flyway of the United States. Brown-headed cowbirds (n= 309, Molothrus ater), common grackles (n = 51, Quiscalus quiscula), and cattle egrets (n = 12, Bubulcus ibis) contained foodborne pathogenic bacteria in their ceca. Salmonella enterica were isolated from 14.9% of all samples and E. coli O157:H7 from 3.7%. Salmonella serotypes isolated included Muenster, Montevideo, and Typhimurium. Our data suggest that migratory birds associated with cattle could be a vector for foodborne pathogenic bacteria to be disseminated across long distances.

Last Modified: 7/28/2015
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