Samples were collected from 26 organic and conventional farms and 12 county fairs in Minnesota during 2001 and 2002 to identify the presence of Escherichia coli O157. Immunomagnetic separation was used for isolation of E. coli O157. Isolates were further characterized by the presence of virulence marker genes (stx1, stx2, eaeA, E-hly, katP, etpD, and espP), antimicrobial susceptibility profiles, and genotypes. During 2001, E. coli O157 was isolated from 16 (5.2%) of 305 fecal samples and from 7 (36.8%) of 19 farms. During 2002, E. coli O157 was isolated from 6 (4.5%) of 132 fecal samples from weaned calves at 4 (23.5%) of 17 farms. During 2001 and 2002, cattle manure samples were collected from 12 county fairs, and E. coli O157 was isolated from 19 (11%) of 178 samples and 9 (75%) of 12 county fairs. Among 40 E. coli O157 isolates, 17 isolates (43%) had both the stx1 and stx2 genes, and 21 strains (53%) had the stx2 gene only. Thirteen percent of O157 isolates were resistant to tetracycline, and 25% were resistant to sulfadimethoxine. Heterogeneity of E. coli O157 strains was demonstrated by the presence of 22 different pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns. Four PFGE patterns matched those of isolates previously found in humans. The presence of E. coli O157 at county fairs suggests the potential for transmission to the public, who may have contact with cattle or their environment.

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