Characterization and Survival of Environmental Escherichia coli O26 Isolates in Ground Beef and Environmental Samples

Christine E. Palmer, Christy L. Bratcher, Manpreet Singh, Luxin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In addition to Escherichia coli O157:H7, shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O26 was added to the zero-tolerance adulterant list together with other 5 non-O157 STEC serogroups in 2012. Four farm O26 isolates were used in this study; they were obtained from a on-farm survey study conducted in Alabama. The presence of 3 major pathogenic genes (stx1, stx2, and eaeA) was determined through multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Two major pathogenic gene profiles were observed: 3 of the farm isolates contain only the eaeA gene whereas 1 farm isolate has both the eaeA and the stx1 genes. No significant difference was seen among the 4 farm isolates in the antibiotic resistance tests. To test their survival in ground beef and environmental samples, 2 inoculums were prepared and inoculated at various concentrations into samples of ground beef, bovine feces, bedding materials, and trough water. One inoculum was made of 3 farm isolates containing only the eaeA gene and another inoculum contained the isolate with both the eaeA and stx1 genes. Inoculated beef samples were stored at 4 °C for 10 d and the inoculated environmental samples were stored at ambient temperature for 30 d. Results showed that virulence gene profiles do not have an impact on O26's ability to survive in ground beef and in environment (P > 0.05). The inoculation levels, sample types as well as the storage times are the major factors that impact O26 survival (P < 0.05). Practical Application: Escherichia coli O26 was the top one non-O157 shiga toxin-producing E. coli isolated in a cow/calf operation survey study conducted in Alabama. The capability of the 4 fecal O26 isolates being able to survive in food and environmental samples for an extended period of time indicated that good agriculture practices for small cow/calf operations are required and of great importance to prevent on-farm pathogenic O26 transfer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)M782-M787
JournalJournal of food science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Pathogenic genes
  • Shiga toxin producing E. coli O26
  • Survival


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