Title:Verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) infection spread in Ireland
Verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) are a significant foodborne public health hazard in Europe, wheremost human infections are associated with six serogroups (O157, O26, O103, O145, O111 and O104), these serogroups are associated with bovine animals and beef products. Infection with VTEC in Ireland is a substantial problem, Ireland has recently had in excess of 700 cases of VTEC per annum, this is fifteen times the EU average for this disease. This paper reviews our current knowledge of VTEC in the bovine herd focusing on transmission and the factors which impact on survival from the farm through the environment, transport, lairage, slaughter, dressing, processing and distribution, in the context of the Irish industry. In the concluding section, emerging issues and data gaps are addressed with a view to increasing our understanding of this pathogen and developing new thinking on detection and control. VTEC is largely a rural problem, with water supplies and the environment in general as the major exposures. Addressing the problem of VTEC will require a systematic, system-wide, collective approach, with multilevel interventions from many sections of the public and private realms. Simple measures such as hygiene and handwashing are crucial cogs to its control.