Clostridium estertheticum and C. estertheticum–like spp. are obligate anaerobic psychrophiles causing “blown pack” spoilage of chilled vacuum-packed meat. The present study aimed at detecting and isolating these spoilage bacteria in fecal samples of cattle of different ages at the slaughterhouse level. One hundred two swab fecal samples were obtained and enriched anaerobically in prereduced peptone-yeast-glucose-starch (PYGS) medium for 3 weeks at 4°C and then screened for C. estertheticum and C. estertheticum–like spp. by using a 16S rRNA gene–based real-time PCR (RT-PCR) assay. The RT-PCR–positive samples were further enriched for 3 weeks in prereduced PYGS medium and then subjected to an ethanol (50%, v/v) and lysozyme (4 mg/mL) treatment. Isolation was carried out anaerobically on Columbia agar with 5% defibrinated sheep blood at 4°C for 3 weeks. Isolated strains were identified morphologically and by the 16S rRNA gene. Forty (39%) of 102 samples were RT-PCR positive. The frequency of positive samples was the following: 9 (45%) of 20 in calves (aged ≤160 days), 23 (43%) of 54 in young cattle (aged 161 to 1,000 days), and 8 (29%) of 28 in cows or bulls (aged >1,000 days). Six strains were isolated from 6 of 40 RT-PCR–positive samples. Of these, five were from the calves (n = 1) and young cattle (n = 4). The six isolates were identified as C. estertheticum (n = 1), Clostridium frigoriphilum (n = 1), and C. estertheticum–like spp. (n = 4). The present findings confirm that feces of cattle are an important source of psychrophilic Clostridium spp. The fecal carriage among livestock animals at slaughter is strongly correlated with the risk of carcass contamination. Therefore, the maintenance of slaughter hygiene is of central importance.
Psychrophilic Clostridium spp. were detected by PCR in 40 of 102 cattle fecal samples.
Isolates included C. estertheticum, C. frigoriphilum, and C. estertheticum–like spp.
Frequency of detection (43%) and isolation (6%) was highest in cattle aged ≤1,000 days.