Escherichia coli strains were screened for their ability to inhibit E. coli O157:H7. An initial evaluation of 18 strains carrying previously characterized colicins determined that only colicin E7 inhibited all of the E. coli O157:H7 strains tested. A total of 540 strains that had recently been isolated from humans and nine different animal species (cats, cattle, chickens, deer, dogs, ducks, horses, pigs, and sheep) were tested by a flip-plating technique. Approximately 38% of these strains were found to inhibit noncolicinogenic E. coli K12 strains. The percentage of potentially colicinogenic E. coli per animal species ranged from 14% for horse isolates to 64% for sheep strains. Those isolates that inhibited E. coli K12 were screened against E. coli O157:H7, and 42 strains were found to be capable of inhibiting all 22 pathogenic strains tested. None of these 42 strains produced bacteriophages, and only 24 isolates inhibited serotype O157:H7 in liquid culture. The inhibitory activity of these strains was completely eliminated by treatment with proteinase K. When mixtures of these 24 colicinogenic strains were grown in anaerobic continuous culture, the four-strain E. coli O157:H7 population was reduced at a rate of 0.25 log10 cells per ml per h, which was fivefold faster than the washout rate. Two strains originally isolated from cat feces (F16) and human feces (H30) were identified by repetitive sequences polymerase chain reaction as the predominant isolates in continuous cultures. The results of this work indicate that animal species other than cattle can be sources of anti-O157 colicinogenic strains, and these results also lead to the identification of at least two isolates that could potentially be used in preharvest control strategies.

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