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Molecular epidemiology of Enterococcus cecorum isolates recovered from enterococcal spondylitis outbreaks in the southeastern United States

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Enterococcus cecorum, a normal intestinal inhabitant, is increasingly responsible for outbreaks of arthritis and osteomyelitis in chickens worldwide. Enterococcal spondylitis (ES) is a specific manifestation of E. cecorum-associated disease in which increased flock morbidity and mortality result from chronic infection involving the free thoracic vertebra. In this study the genetic relatedness and antimicrobial resistance of isolates recovered from ES-affected flocks in the southeastern United States were determined. ES outbreaks from 2007 to 2011 were investigated in North Carolina (15 flocks, 13 farms, four integrators), South Carolina (one flock, one farm, one integrator) and Alabama (six flocks, six farms, one integrator). From these 22 epidemiologically distinct outbreaks, 326 isolates of E. cecorum were recovered. Isolates from spinal lesions and caeca of affected birds (cases) and caeca of unaffected birds (controls) were genotyped using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis; phenotyped using both GenIII MicroPlate™ (Biolog; Hayward, CA, USA) microbial identification plates and antimicrobial sensitivity testing; and compared with each other. Isolates from spinal lesions were incapable of mannitol metabolism and the majority of these isolates were genetically clonal. In contrast, caecal isolates from control birds varied in their ability to metabolize mannitol and were genetically diverse. Isolates from both case and control birds had high levels of antimicrobial resistance. These findings indicate that the increase in E. cecorum-associated disease in the southeast United States is due to the emergence of new clones with increased pathogenicity and multidrug resistance.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine,North Carolina State University, Raleigh,NC,27607, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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