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Characterization of antibiotic-resistant and potentially pathogenic Escherichia coli from soil fertilized with litter of broiler chickens fed antimicrobial-supplemented diets

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The objective of this study was to characterize antimicrobial resistance and virulence determinants of Escherichia coli from soil amended with litter from 36-day-old broiler chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) fed with diets supplemented with a variety of antimicrobial agents. Soil samples were collected from plots before and periodically after litter application in August to measure E. coli numbers. A total of 295 E. coli were isolated from fertilized soil samples between August and March. Antibiotic susceptibility was determined by Sensititre, and polymerase chain reaction was performed to detect the presence of resistance and virulence genes. The results confirmed that E. coli survived and could be quantified by direct plate count for at least 7 months in soil following litter application in August. The effects of feed supplementation were observed on E. coli numbers in November and January. Among the 295 E. coli, the highest antibiotic resistance level was observed against tetracycline and β-lactams associated mainly with the resistance genes tetB and bla CMY-2, respectively. Significant treatment effects were observed for phylogenetic groups, antibiotic resistance profiles, and virulence gene frequencies. Serotyping, phylogenetic grouping, and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis confirmed that multiple-antibiotic-resistant and potentially pathogenic E. coli can survive in soil fertilized with litter for several months regardless of antimicrobials used in the feed.

Keywords: E. coli; antimicrobial resistance; application sur le terrain; broiler bedding; field application; litière de poulet; résistance antimicrobienne; soil; sol

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 6947, #7 Hwy, Agassiz, BC V0M 1A0, Canada. 2: Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 4200 Highway 97 South, Summerland, BC V0H 1Z0, Canada. 3: Southern Crop Protection and Food Research Centre, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, 1391 Sandford Street, London, ON N5V 4T3, Canada. 4: Laboratory for Foodborne Zoonoses, Public Health Agency of Canada, 110 Stone Road West, Guelph, ON N1G 3W4, Canada.

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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  • Published since 1954, this monthly journal contains new research in the field of microbiology including applied microbiology and biotechnology; microbial structure and function; fungi and other eucaryotic protists; infection and immunity; microbial ecology; physiology, metabolism and enzymology; and virology, genetics, and molecular biology. It also publishes review articles and notes on an occasional basis, contributed by recognized scientists worldwide.
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