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Peer-reviewed Article

Salmonella in sewage effluent raises ecological and food-safety concerns


Hailu Kinde, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine
Edward R. Atwill, School of Veterinary Medicine

publication information

California Agriculture 54(5):62-68. DOI: 10.3733/ca.v054n05p62. September-October 2000.


Salmonella bacteria continue to be an important public-health problem and have a serious economic impact on the U.S. poultry industry. Although the majority of human infections traceable to Salmonella enteritidis are related to egg consumption, this serotype has also been isolated from a variety of nonegg food items such as meat, vegetables and fish. In Southern California, S. enteritidis phage type 4 infection is the predominant serotype found in human patients. However, the organism has also been found in municipal sewage effluent and in rodent and poultry environments. S. enteritidis phage type 4 was first detected in human patients in Southern California in 1990, but wasn't isolated from food-producing animals until its occurrence at a Southern California egg-layer ranch in 1994. An epidemiological study revealed that the layer flock was infected via effluent originating from a nearby municipal sewage-treatment plant. Human sewage effluent was the primary environmental source, combined with wildlife that further amplified and disseminated the bacteria. This discovery has important implications for understanding the ecology of S. enteritidis infection in poultry and humans and developing appropriate methods to prevent its further spread.

author affiliations

H. Kinde is Veterinary Diagnostician and Associate Professor, Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis. He is based at the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory in San Bernardino. E.R. Atwill is Extension Veterinarian and Associate Professor, Veterinary Medicine Extension and Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis. He is based at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching & Research Center in Tulare.