U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version

December 2005


Published in APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY, Dec. 2005, p. 7974–7979.


Ruminant animals are carriers of Escherichia coli O157:H7, and the transmission of E. coli O157:H7 from cattle to the environment and to humans is a concern. It is unclear if diet can influence the survivability of E. coliO157:H7 in the gastrointestinal system or in feces in the environment. Feces from cattle fed bromegrass hay or corn silage diets were inoculated with E. coliO157:H7, and the survival of this pathogen was analyzed. When animals consumed bromegrass hay for <1 month, viable E. coliO157:H7 was not recovered after 28 days postinoculation, but when animals consumed the diet for >1 month, E. coli O157:H7 cells were recovered for >120 days. Viable E. coli O157:H7 cells in feces from animals fed corn silage were detected until day 45 and differed little with the time on the diet. To determine if forage phenolic acids affected the viability of E. coli O157:H7, feces from animals fed corn silage or cracked corn were amended with common forage phenolic acids. When 0.5% trans-cinnamic acid or 0.5% para-coumaric acid was added to feces from silage-fed animals, the E. coli O157:H7 death rate was increased significantly (17-fold and 23-fold, respectively) compared to that with no addition. In feces from animals fed cracked corn, E. coli O157:H7 death rates were increased significantly with the addition of 0.1% and 0.5% trans-cinnamic acid (7- and 13-fold), 0.1% and 0.5% p-coumaric acid (3- and 8-fold), and 0.5% ferulic acid (3-fold). These data suggest that phenolic acids common to forage plants can decrease viable counts of E. coli O157:H7 shed in feces.