The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and 10 other institutions have begun a project to study toxic bacteria in beef using a $25-million grant from USDA.

The five-year project will focus on learning how infections of certain strains of E. coli could develop in cattle and could help improve detection methods and risk management.

A research team of 49 scientists will study a Shiga toxin-producing strain of E. coli, says project leader Rod Moxley, a veterinarian and UNL pathologist.

Bean sprouts contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli sickened thousands of people and caused dozens of deaths in Europe last year.

Thus far, there is no evidence that cattle carry that E. coli strain, Moxley says. But his team will look at the prevalence of the organism on ranches, in feedlots and cattle coming in to slaughter plants.

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