E. coli study needs volunteers

A team of university researchers are looking for Welsh and Scottish farmers and abattoir workers to take part in a study of E. coli O157.

Researchers from universities that include Bangor, Manchester and London, are looking for livestock farmers and slaughterhouse employees in the Grampian area of Scotland and from Wales to take part in experiments to gain a better understand of the potentially deadly infection.

The study is part of a three year Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) project called 'Reducing E. coli O157 risk in rural communities' led by Professor Ken Killham, chair of Soil Science at the University of Aberdeen.

Dr Colette Jones, of the School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen, said: "This particular strand of the RELU study will investigate why livestock farmers and abattoir employees appear unaffected by E. coli O157."

"Considering 10-40% of cattle herds in the UK have E. coli O157 it is surprising that we do not see employees from these sectors routinely struck down by the bug. This could suggest that the more often you are exposed to the bug, the greater your immunity or your ability to deal with the infection."

Volunteers from the Grampian region, which has one of the world's highest rates of the infection, will be tested alongside farmers and abattoir workers from Wales and compared with immunity in members of the public from both areas.

Dr Jones added: "Our study will examine this thinking by testing for antibodies in blood and saliva. The antibodies will indicate to us whether that person has had E. coli O157 in the past. We will also test stool samples for E. coli O157 to see if people have the bug in their faeces without it actually affecting them, which would suggest. they possess a degree of immunity."

Anyone who would like to take part in the study should contact Dr Colette Jones on 01224 272370 or e-mail at c.d.jones@abdn.ac.uk

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