K-State researchers findings on E. coli

 

MANHATTAN, KAN. — Ethanol plants and livestock producers have created a symbiotic relationship. Cattle producers feed their livestock distiller’s grains, a byproduct of the ethanol distilling process, giving ethanol producers have an added source of income.

But recent research at Kansas State University has found that cattle fed distiller’s grain have an increased prevalence of E. coli 0157 in their hindgut. This particular type of E. coli is present in healthy cattle but poses a health risk to humans, who can acquire it through undercooked meat, raw dairy products and produce contaminated with cattle manure.

“Distiller’s grain is a good animal feed. That’s why ethanol plants are often built next to feedlots,” said T.G. Nagaraja, a professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Through three rounds of testing, Nagaraja said the prevalence of 0157 was about twice as high in cattle fed distiller’s grain compared with those cattle that were on a diet lacking the ethanol byproduct.

“Feeding cattle distiller’s grain is a big economic advantage for ethanol plants,” Nagaraja said. “We realize we can’t tell cattle producers, ‘Don’t feed distiller’s grain.’ What we want to do is not only understand the reasons why 0157 increases, but also find a way to prevent that from happening.”