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University of Nebraska seeks answers about 'supershedding' of pathogens in livestock

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Sep 01, 2011

Lincoln, Neb. — Researchers and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) have been awarded a five-year, $2.35 million grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to find what makes some livestock "supershedders" of foodborne pathogens.

The research team, headed by food microbiologist Andy Benson, will specifically study pathogens, like E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella and campylobacter, which have been known to colonize in the bovine gut.

The goal is to try to associate organisms in the gastrointestinal tract with genetics to better understand why some animals become supershedders of pathogens and others do not shed them in unusual numbers, the university reports.

The research may uncover ways to reduce the number of animals that shed high levels of E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, campylobacter and other pathogens through breeding and genetic programs, according to UNL.

"Many producers are already using sophisticated approaches to manage their breeding programs. For them, it would be yet another gene and another trait on their list of things that want to breed for or breed against," Benson says.

Other researchers on the project include: Stephen Kachman, a UNL statistics scientist; Etsuko Moriyama, a UNL genomics and bioinformatics scientist; and Daniel Pomp, a mouse geneticist formerly of UNL and now of the University of North Carolina.

The project is being conducted in partnership with USDA's Meat Animal Research Center at Clay Center and Geneseek, a private Lincoln-based company that specializes in genotyping.