Fecal samples from cattle in 100 feedlots in 13 states were bacteriologically cultured for Escherichia coli O157 that did not ferment sorbitol, lacked beta-glucuronidase, and possessed genes coding for Shiga-like toxin. In each feedlot 30 fresh fecal-pat samples were collected from each of four pens: with the cattle shortest on feed, with cattle longest on feed, and with cattle in two randomly selected pens. E. coli O157 was isolated from 210 (1.8%) of 11,881 fecal samples. One or more samples were positive for E. coli O157 in 63 of the 100 feedlots tested. E. coli O157 was found at roughly equal prevalence in all the geographical regions sampled. The prevalence of E. coli O157 in the pens with cattle shortest on feed was approximately threefold higher than for randomly selected and longest on feed pens. Of the E. coli O157 isolates found in this study, 89.52% expressed the H7 flagellar antigen. E. coli O157 was found to be widely distributed among feedlot cattle, but at a low prevalence, in the United States.
†Present address: United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services, National Veterinary Services Laboratories, Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Greensport, New York 11944.