Fecal swabs obtained from a random sample of 1,000 beef slaughter steers and heifers from 123 Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) farms were examined for the presence of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) using a Vero cell assay (VCA). Multiple isolates from each positive sample were tested similarly. VCA-positive isolates were confirmed as E. coli biochemically, tested for drug resistance, serotyped, and tested by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Animals were classified as positive when an isolate was positive on VCA and the presence of the gene responsible for toxin production was confirmed by PCR. The prevalence of STEC in beef slaughter steers and heifers on P.E.I. was 4% (40 of 1,000). The total number of isolates was 43, and these comprised 26 serotypes, including 13 isolates belonging to 6 serotypes known to be associated with human illness. The most frequently isolated STEC serotype was E. coli O157 (5 isolates out of 43). Of the five E. coli O157 isolates, four were E. coli O157:H7, a serious human pathogen. The majority of STEC isolates, including all O157:H7, isolates, were susceptible to 16 commonly used antimicrobial drugs. According to PCR, 65% of the STEC isolates had the gene for Stx1. Four of these isolates, including two O157: H7, had genes for Shiga toxin (Stx)1 and Stx2.

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