UBC Microbiologist's Work Leads to First E. Coli Vaccine for Cattle


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Research by UBC microbiologist and bacterial disease expert Brett Finlay has helped develop Econiche--the world’s first vaccine designed to reduce cattle shedding of a particularly dangerous strain of E. coli.

Econiche--developed by the Canadian biopharmaceutical company Bioniche in partnership with UBC, the Alberta Research Council (ARC) and the University of Saskatchewan--was approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency this October.

Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but some can cause severe illness and even be fatal when ingested by humans from contaminated meat, vegetables or water. The vaccination of cattle can help reduce the risk of food and water contamination by a strain that is dangerous to humans: Escherichia coli O157:H7.

"Cows carry O157 but don’t get sick--where the disease comes from is people encountering contaminated food or water, usually from cow feces," says Finlay.

"If we block the colonization of cows, we basically decrease the number that humans are exposed to, and thus, dropping the disease levels in humans."

An estimated 100,000 cases of human infection with E. coli O157:H7 are reported each year in North America. In 2000, seven people died and more than 2,000 became ill in Walkerton, Ontario, when the town's water supply was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 from a local cattle farm.

Econiche will be manufactured in the Bioniche production facility in Belleville, Ontario, where a $25-million expansion is taking place, supported by the Ontario and Canadian governments.

An estimated 100,000 cases of human infection with E. coli O157:H7 are reported each year in North America.