Antibiotic resistance was investigated in 474 Escherichia coli isolates recovered from animal faeces (broilers, pigs, pets, bulls and horses), human faeces (patients and healthy volunteers) and food products of animal origin. E. coli isolates (3260) recovered from human significant infectious samples were also included. There was a high frequency of nalidixic acid, ciprofloxacin and gentamicin resistance in E. coli isolates from broilers (88, 38 and 40%, respectively), and from foods (53, 13 and 17%). High levels of resistance to trimethoprim-sulphamethoxazole and tetracycline have been found in E. coli isolates from broilers, pigs and foods. These data raise important questions about the potential impact of antibiotic use in animals and the possible entry of resistant pathogens into the food chain.