Nature Reviews Microbiology 6, 904-912 (December 2008) | doi:10.1038/nrmicro2029

Super-shedding and the link between human infection and livestock carriage of Escherichia coli O157

Margo Chase-Topping1, David Gally2, Chris Low3, Louise Matthews4 & Mark Woolhouse1  About the authors


Cattle that excrete more Escherichia coli O157 than others are known as super-shedders. Super-shedding has important consequences for the epidemiology of E. coli O157 in cattle — its main reservoir — and for the risk of human infection, particularly owing to environmental exposure. Ultimately, control measures targeted at super-shedders may prove to be highly effective. We currently have only a limited understanding of both the nature and the determinants of super-shedding. However, super-shedding has been observed to be associated with colonization at the terminal rectum and might also occur more often with certain pathogen phage types. More generally, epidemiological evidence suggests that super-shedding might be important in other bacterial and viral infections.

Author affiliations

  1. Centre for Infectious Diseases, University of Edinburgh, Kings Buildings, Edinburgh, EH9 3JT, UK.
  2. Immunity and Infection Division, The Roslin Institute and R(D)SVS, University of Edinburgh, Chancellor's Building, Edinburgh, EH16 4SB, UK.
  3. Scottish Agricultural College, Animal Health Group, Research Division, King's Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3JG, UK.
  4. Institute for Comparative Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary medicine, University of Glasgow, Bearsden Road, Glasgow, G61 1QH, UK.

Correspondence to: Margo Chase-Topping1 Email:


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