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Prevalence of e.coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Cryptosporidium Among Arizona Dairy Workers Using Post-Work Swabbing

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health. 30(1): 17-34. (doi: 10.13031/jash.15680) @2024
Authors:   Rietta Wagoner, Kaitlyn A. Benally, Daniela Cabrera, Gerardo Lopez, Nicolas I. Lopez-Galvez, Duarte Diaz
Keywords:   Agricultural workers, Dairy workers, ddPCR, Exposure, Microbial, Zoonotic


Microbial assessment of dairy workers in Arizona, U.S.

Provides demographic and working information of an underserved group.

Highlights the need for health and safety assessments and solutions in the dairy industry.

Abstract. The dairy industry in Arizona, like many other agricultural industries in the United States, is dependent on the labor that migrant farm workers provide. Infections caused by zoonotic pathogens are commonly underreported or misdiagnosed, and possibly more so in migratory workers that face cultural, structural, legal, financial, and geographic barriers to health services. The objectives of this project were to: assess the demographics of Arizona dairy workers, determine the exposure potential of Arizona dairy workers to zoonotic organisms, and inform best management practices. A questionnaire including demographics, work tasks, and household characteristics was administered. Swab samples were collected from the shoulders, knees, and foreheads of employees at two dairy operations at the end of the work shift. The swabs were cultured for E.coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. Molecular DNA isolated from Salmonella and Cryptosporidium was quantified using droplet-digital Polymerase Chain Reaction (ddPCR). Twenty dairy workers were recruited, and 60 samples were collected. The majority of workers were male, preferred to speak Spanish, and identified as Latino/Hispanic (68.8%, 93.8%, and 93.8%, respectively). E. coli O157:H7 was detected in 13% of cultured knee and forehead samples. Salmonella spp. gene copies were detected on 60.0% of samples collected from forehead skin samples; 40.0% of shoulder clothing samples; and 15% of knee clothing samples, as measured via ddPCR. The positive cultural and molecular samples indicate the need for improved post-workday sanitation practices at farms. This study provides surveillance of a largely invisible population, including insights that can be used to create site-specific health and safety protocols for the dairy industry, inform risk assessment models, and foster preventive practices in the dairy industry.

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