Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli
(STEC) are a subgroup of E. coli
causing human diseases. Methods to control STEC in livestock and humans are limited. These and other emerging pathogens are a global concern and novel mitigation strategies are required. Habitats populated by bacteria are subjected to competition pressures due to limited space and resources but they use various strategies to compete in natural environments. Our objective was to evaluate non-pathogenic E. coli
strains isolated from cattle feces for their ability to out-compete STEC. Competitive fitness of non-pathogenic E. coli
against STEC were assessed in competitions using liquid, agar, and nutrient limiting assays. Winners were determined by enumeration using O-serogroup specific quantitative PCR or a semi-quantitative grading. Initial liquid competitions identified two strong non-pathogenic competitors (O103F and O26E) capable of eliminating various STEC including O157 and O111. The strain O103F was dominant across permeable physical barriers for all tested E. coli
and STEC strains indicating the diffusion of antimicrobial molecules. In direct contact and even with temporal disadvantages, O103F out-competed STEC O157E. The results suggest that O103F or the diffusible molecule(s) it produces have a potential to be used as an alternative STEC mitigation strategy, either in medicine or the food industry.
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