Associations between the use of antimicrobial agents for growth promotion and the occurrence of resistance among Enterococcus faecium from broilers and pigs in Denmark, Finland, and Norway

Microb Drug Resist. Spring 2000;6(1):63-70. doi: 10.1089/mdr.2000.6.63.


This study compares the susceptibility of Enterococcus faecium isolated from pigs and poultry in Denmark, Finland, and Norway to antimicrobial agents used for growth promotion. E. faecium was isolated from 211 broilers and 55 pigs in Denmark in 1997, from Norwegian 55 poultry farms (turkey and broiler farms) and 4 swine farms between 1995 and 1997, and Finnish poultry (52) and swine (43) in 1996 and examined for susceptibility to avilamycin, avoparcin, bacitracin, flavomycin, monensin, salinomycin, spiramycin, tylosin, and virginiamycin. Only a limited number of isolates were categorized as resistant to monensin or salinomycin. In general, an association between the usage of antimicrobial agents in the respective countries and the occurrence of associated resistance was observed. Resistance to avilamycin was frequently observed among isolates from broilers in Denmark, where avilamycin has been used, whereas all isolates from Finland and Norway, where these drugs have not been used, were susceptible. The same phenomenon could be observed for avoparcin, bacitracin, tylosin, and virginiamycin; resistance was frequently observed among isolates from where these antimicrobials have been widely used, but rarely among isolates from where the use has been limited. Also for avoparcin and bacitracin, an association between usage and occurrence of resistance was observed. All isolates categorized as avoparcin resistant contained the vanX gene; isolates from broilers had the T variant in position 8,234 and isolates from pigs the G variant. Three (1%) of the 222 isolates resistant to tylosin contained the ermA gene and 196 (88%) ermB. Sixteen (11%) of the 146 virginiamycin-resistant isolates from broilers and two (7%) of the 27 virginiamycin-resistant isolates from pigs in Denmark contained the satA gene, whereas satA was not observed among any of the virginiamycin-resistant isolates from Finland. A total of 72% of the virginiamycin-resistant E. faecium from broilers in Denmark and all nine virginiamycin-resistant E. faecium from Finland contained satG. This gene was also observed among two (7%) of the virginiamycin-resistant isolates from pigs in Denmark. This study indicates that the use of antimicrobial agents for growth promotion in Denmark, Finland, and Norway have selected for resistance to most of these drugs among E. faecium in food animals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Chickens / microbiology*
  • Denmark
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics
  • Enterococcus faecium / drug effects*
  • Enterococcus faecium / genetics
  • Enterococcus faecium / growth & development
  • Finland
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Norway
  • Swine / microbiology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents