Agricultural Research Service scientists and colleagues are working on an oral vaccine to eliminate E. coli O157:H7 in live cattle. The key ingredient of the oral vaccine — developed at Bethesda University’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology — is intimin, a protein on the outer membrane of the O157:H7 strain. The bacteria need intimin to attach themselves to intestinal tissue. In tests, pigs injected with purified bacterial intimin developed antibodies against it.

The next step is to prove that the vaccine is effective in cattle and to develop a plant, like corn, containing the vaccine that cattle will eat.