While I’m sure Senator McCain doesn’t see it that way, he has decided to beat up unsexy science grants contained in the farm bill. Number ten on his top-ten list of pork projects was this:
Pigs! Pork! Get it? Hur hur hur. Except that feral pigs were responsible for a serious E. coli spinach outbreak in 2006. And feral pigs were the culprit:
But the spinach outbreak might have a far more mundane cause: feral pigs pooping on the spinach fields. To digress a little, the density of feral pigs was 3.8 – 5.9 pigs per square kilometers, and the ranch on which the spinach was grown is estimated to have a total feral pig population of 149 animals. That’s lotsa pig.
What the researchers found, using the most detailed genotyping methods other than whole genome sequencing, is that the same E. coli O157:H7 genotype that made people sick was also found in cattle feces and feral pig feces, and was not found in river sediment, cattle pasture soil, or surface water.
And, once again, the Mad Biologist knows all (boldface added):
In other words, it’s not entirely clear how the feral pigs became O157 carriers, but feral pigs might be the proximal cause of the contaminated spinach. Not very exciting–we don’t need or want Congressional hearings about the Dangers of Feral Pigs–but it’s a good explanation for how this particular case happened.
Indeed, we do not.
And because I can: