Study: E. coli lives longer in certain soils

E. coli

E. coli O157:H7, one of the most common illness-causing strains of E. coli, can survive in the soil of California’s Salinas Valley for about 30 days – roughly ten days more than it does in Imperial Valley, Calif. or Yuma, Ariz. Researchers attribute the longer lifespan to lower salinity in irrigation water in the Salinas Valley, according to the Packer.

Although researchers don’t recommend increasing salinity in the soil to cut down on the bacteria’s lifespan, which could be difficult and detrimental to area farmers, they said it’s important for pathogen monitoring reasons. Given E. coli, which is found in animals’ gut, survives longer in Salinas, producers should be wary of introducing pathogens through avenues such as manure, said Mark Ibekwe, a microbiologist with the USDA, in the Packer.

E. coli O157:H7 is one of the most common causes of severe foodborne illness and belongs to a group known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or STEC. However, it is important to note that the soil samples were laboratory tested. The majority of field studies of E. coli are nonpathogenic types.

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