Vaccinating Cattle Could Save Human Lives

UK – Humans would benefit if cattle were vaccinated against E. coli O157, scientists say.
calendar icon 18 September 2013
clock icon 1 minute read

Cases of bacterial infection in humans could be cut by 85 per cent if cattle, the main reservoir for the bacterium, were vaccinated more regularly.

This new figure is far higher than the 50 per cent figure predicted by studies looking at the efficacy of current vaccines in cattle.

Lead author, Dr Louise Matthews, Senior Research Fellow in the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, said: "E. coli O157 is a serious gastrointestinal illness. The economic impact is also serious – for instance studies in the US suggest that healthcare, lost productivity and food product recalls due to E. coli O157 can cost hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

"Treating cattle in order to reduce the number of human cases certainly makes sense from a human health perspective and, while more work is needed to calculate the cost of a vaccination programme, the public health justification must be taken seriously."

Work is now underway to establish an economic basis for a vaccination programme.

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