At a recent workshop held by the Scottish Food Standards Agency, the role of ‘supershedders’ – cattle that excrete particularly high levels of E coli O157 in their faeces – was one of the main issues discussed.
Such animals are thought to play an important role in the spread of bacteria to other cattle; however, it was clear from discussions at the workshop that these animals do not form a consistent group at which interventions could be targeted.
According to the Veterinary Record (15 September 2012, p261), participants also noted that any widespread application of intervention strategies must take account of a proper cost-benefit evaluation, including a demonstrable impact on reducing the risk of human infection, and any health and safety risks to farm or abattoir staff or risks to the environment.
We think that this deserves instant action and more research in view of the risk to various population groups. The veterinary profession should be leading the study and the message.