Cattle are an import:mt reservoir of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli
(STEC) O26, O111, and O157. The fate of these pathogens in bovine feces at
5, 15, and 25 degrees C was examined. The feces of a cow naturally infecte
d with STEC O26:H11 and two STEC-free cows were studied. STEC O26, O111, an
d O157 were inoculated into bovine feces at 10(1), 10(3), and 10(5) CFU/g.
All three pathogens survived at 5 and 25 degrees C for 1 to 4 weeks and at
15 degrees C for 1 to 8 weeks when inoculated at the low concentration. On
samples inoculated with the middle and high concentrations, O26, O111, and
O157 survived at 25 degrees C for 3 to 12 weeks, at 15 degrees C for 1 to 1
8 weeks, and at 5 degrees C for 2 to 14 weeks, respectively. Therefore, the
se pathogens can survive in feces for a long time, especially at 15 degrees
C. The surprising long-term survival of STEC O26, O111, and O157 in bovine
feces shows that such feces are a potential vehicle for transmitting not o
nly O157 but also O26 and O111 to cattle, food, and the environment. Approp
riate handling of bovine feces is emphasized.