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Vaccine targeted at E.coli gets first US licence

By Jane Byrne , 13-Mar-2009
Last updated on 17-Mar-2009 at 15:05 GMT

New technology aimed at reducing the risk of E. coli 0157 in ground beef has won a conditional licence from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Epitopix claims that its new E. coli O157 Bacterial Extract is the first O157 vaccine licensed for sale in the US:

“It represents a significant breakthrough in the beef industry’s on-going effort to reduce E. coli O157,” says Jim Sandstrom, general manger of the company.

“We are confident that our E. coli O157 SRP vaccine will play an important role for beef producers and packers as they work together to implement E. coli O157 control efforts,” he added.

The product licence, though, is conditional while additional potency and efficacy studies are completed.

Health concerns

E. coli O157 is a Gram-negative bacterium known to exist in the gastrointestinal tract of outwardly healthy, normal cattle.

These bacteria do not cause disease in cattle, but when the cattle are slaughtered, E. coli O157 bacteria can sometimes find their way into ground beef. Proper cooking easily kills the bacteria, but in cases where beef may be inadequately cooked, serious human disease can occur.

This strain of the bacteria sickens 70,000 people in the US every year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while E. coli 0157 contamination of ground beef has led to several big meat recalls in the US in recent years.

Phage technology

Chr. Hansen recently announced its acquisition of a phage based product designed to reduce contamination of cattle and poultry by bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Jan Kuhlmann, VP animal health and nutrition at Chr. Hansen, told FoodProductionDaily.com that the phage is designed as an in-feed product and can be given to animals two weeks prior to slaughter.

Pre-slaughter treatment

According to Kuhlmann, the in-feed phage reduces the level of pathogens by 85 to 95 per cent, thereby reducing the burden for food manufacturers at the meat processing stage.

“Contamination of beef with E. coli strain 0157 creates public health risks and is of concern to the meat packaging and processing industry.

“Our bacteriophage technology is uniquely suited to address this problem because it can be used to treat animals just before slaughter and greatly reduce the risk of contamination of meat products. The treatment is short and simple with no risk to humans,” he added.

Kuhlmann said that Chr. Hansen will be releasing the phage technology targeted at E. coli on the North American market initially, and the company is currently awaiting regulatory approval for the product from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

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