Escherichia coli O157 infection on Scottish cattle farms: Dynamics and control

Xu Sheng Zhang*, Mark E.J. Woolhouse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we parametrize a stochastic individual-based model of the transmission dynamics of Escherichia coli O157 infection among Scottish cattle farms and use the model to predict the impacts of both targeted and non-targeted interventions. We first generate distributions of model parameter estimates using Markov chain Monte Carlo methods. Despite considerable uncertainty in parameter values, each set of parameter values within the 95th percentile range implies a fairly similar impact of interventions. Interventions that reduce the transmission coefficient and/or increase the recovery rate of infected farms (e.g. via vaccination and biosecurity) are much more effective in reducing the level of infection than reducing cattle movement rates, which improves effectiveness only when the overall control effort is small. Targeted interventions based on farm-level risk factors are more efficient than non-targeted interventions. Herd size is a major determinant of risk of infection, and our simulations confirmed that targeting interventions at farms with the largest herds is almost as effective as targeting based on overall risk. However, because of the striking characteristic that the infection force depends weakly on the number of infected farms, no interventions that are less than 100 per cent effective can eradicate E. coli O157 infection from Scottish cattle farms, implying that eliminating the disease is impractical.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1051-1058
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number60
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2011


  • Disease control
  • E. Coli O157
  • Markov chain Monte Carlo
  • Transmission dynamics


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