Research to reduce E. coli rates in rural regions

A scientist has embarked on a research project examining social perceptions of the E.coli bug in Grampian, Scotland, in a bid to understand why the area has one of the highest infection rates in the world.

Over 1900 people in Grampian and North Wales have been surveyed so far along with numerous stakeholders from key organisations including Health Protection Scotland, NHS Grampian, Aberdeenshire Council, SEPA and the Scottish Agricultural College.

The research is being conducted by Dr Colette Jones of the School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen and will be showcased during a lunchtime seminar at the University of Aberdeen's Institute for Rural Research (IRR) on 5 November.

Jones said: "Our research compares perceptions of E. coli O157 in the Grampian region with North Wales and aims to gain some understanding of how different people from different walks of life view the infection and their personal risk.

"Two early findings from the survey are the extreme contrast of experiences and views on the bug, and the feeling that some people are more susceptible to infection than others. Developing a profile on public views of E. coli O157 plays a key role in assessing the social factors which influence how people reduce risk."

The research is part of a three year Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) project: 'Reducing Escherichia E. coli O157 risk in rural communities'. The project is led by Professor Ken Killham, Chair of Soil Science at the University of Aberdeen and brings together a team of researchers from across the UK including Bangor, Manchester, and London Universities.

Gathering crucial findings from disciplines including geography, economics, immunology and soil science, the project will develop scientific models for UK authorities to assess and manage the risk of the bug in rural communities.