ABSTRACT

The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 in colon contents and on carcasses from pigs slaughtered at provincially licensed abattoirs (PLAs) in Alberta, Canada. In 2017, carcass sponge samples and colon content samples were collected from 504 healthy market hogs at 39 PLAs and analyzed for E. coli O157:H7. Carcass samples were also analyzed for E. coli and aerobic colony count (ACC). Nine (1.8%) of 504 carcass samples were confirmed positive for E. coli O157:H7. Seven (1.4%) of 504 colon content samples were confirmed positive for E. coli O157:H7. These positives were found in 5 (12.8%) of 39 PLAs from hogs originating from eight farms. The E. coli O157:H7 isolates recovered from the positive samples (n = 1 isolate per sample) were clonal, as determined by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. Six E. coli O157:H7 isolates obtained over 8 months from one PLA that only processed hogs and sourced hogs from one farm had indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns. All 16 E. coli O157:H7 isolates harbored eae and ehxA and were of stx2a subtype, suggesting that swine can carry E. coli O157:H7 of importance to human health. All carcass sponge swabs (100%) were positive for ACC. E. coli was present in 72% of carcass swabs. Carcasses from PLAs slaughtering both beef and hogs had a numerically higher ACC mean value but not statistically different compared with the carcasses from PLAs slaughtering only swine (2,799 and 610 CFU/cm2, respectively). E. coli showed a similar trend with a mean value of 0.88 CFU/cm2 in PLAs slaughtering both species and 0.26 CFU/cm2 in PLAs slaughtering only swine (P ≤ 0.05). This study provides evidence that healthy market hogs from different producers and farms in Alberta can carry E. coli O157:H7, and some strains of the organism may be able to establish persistence on some swine farms.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • E. coli prevalence was determined in colon contents and on pig carcasses slaughtered at PLAs.

  • Prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 on carcass swabs and colon content was 1.8 and 1.4%, respectively.

  • All positive E. coli O157:H7 isolates were clonal, as determined by PFGE.

  • All these strains harbored eae and ehxA and are of stx2a subtype.

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