Summary of Awards to Date

Investigation of potential reservoirs of shiga toxin-producing E. coli and Salmonella in produce production areas of Arizona and Mexico. (rapid response)


Oct. 5, 2010 - Apr. 30, 2011

Award Number


Amount Awarded



Michele Jay-Russell, Ph.D.
University of California, Davis


In May 2010, Romaine lettuce grown in Arizona was implicated as the vehicle in a multi-state outbreak of E. coli O145 infections. This is the first known leafy green-related shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) outbreak traced to the Yuma production region. Pre-harvest contamination was suspected, but the source of the outbreak was not definitively determined. The long-term goal of this project is to identify potential domestic and wild animal reservoirs of foodborne pathogens in produce production regions of Arizona and Northern Mexico. In the first “emergency response” phase of the project we are determining if free-roaming domestic dogs and coyotes in these regions shed STEC and/or Salmonella enterica in their feces. We focused on canids based on feedback from growers who reported that unleashed, free-roaming domestic dogs and coyotes are common in this region. Intrusions into produce fields have resulted in damage to leafy greens and other crops, but the food safety risk from stray dogs and coyotes is unclear. To address this gap in knowledge, we conducted a study during the 2010- 2011 southwestern desert growing season to assess foodborne pathogen carriage in stray dogs and coyotes. In a unique industry-university partnership, the produce company managed the field activities including specimen collection and shipping, while UC Davis investigators
conducted laboratory and data analyses. Three animal shelters were enrolled in the study and visited monthly to sample fresh feces from dogs recently impounded. Fresh coyote scat was collected at dawn by walking the dirt roads near produce fields. Samples were shipped from Yuma to Davis overnight and processed within 24 hours. Standard culture methods were used to isolate STEC and Salmonella. No shiga toxin-producing E. coli was identified among 473 samples, although 8 E. coli isolates belonging to serogroups O26, O145, or O157 were positive for other virulence determinants by PCR (eae, hylA) suggesting the potential to be a human pathogen. Overall, Salmonella was cultured from 33 (9.2%) of 358 dog fecal samples compared with 33 (32%) of 103 coyote scat samples. Twenty-nine Salmonella serotypes were identified including types that have been associated previously with human illness.