We investigate the epidemiology of 12 Verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) serogroups observed in a calf cohort on a Scottish beef farm. Fitting mathematical models to the observed time-course of infections reveals that there is significant calf-to-calf transmission of VTEC. Our models suggest that 40% of all detected infections are from calf-to-calf transmission and 60% from other sources. Variation in the rates at which infected animals recover from infection by different VTEC serogroups appears to be important. Two thirds of the observed VTEC serogroups are lost from infected calves within 1 day of infection, while the rest persist for more than 3 days. Our study has demonstrated that VTEC are transmissible between calves and are typically lost from infected animals in less than 1 week. We suggest that future field studies may wish to adopt a tighter sampling frame in order to detect all circulating VTEC serogroups in similar animal populations.
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