Objectives: To assess the occurrence of faecal carriage of Escherichia coli with resistance to 'critically important' antibiotics in various animals.
Methods: Rectal or cloacal swabs were obtained weekly from cattle, pigs, chickens, cats, dogs and wild rodents over a 2 year period. Plain and antibiotic-containing medium was used for bacterial isolation. Selected isolates were characterized by molecular methods.
Results: In total, 2106 faecal specimens from 398 cats, 460 chickens, 368 dogs, 210 cattle, 214 pigs and 456 rodents were cultured. The faecal carriage rate of extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)-producing E. coli was highest in pigs (63.6%, 136/214) and lowest in rodents (4.2%, 19/456). The faecal ESBL-producing E. coli carriage rate for food-producing animals (53.6%, 474/884) was significantly higher than that for cats/dogs (14.0%, 107/766; P<0.01) and wild rodents (4.2%, 19/456; P<0.01). ESBL-producing isolates from food animals often (33%-81%) had multidrug (≥4) resistance to amikacin, chloramphenicol, ciprofloxacin, co-trimoxazole, gentamicin, nalidixic acid, netilmicin, nitrofurantoin and tetracycline. Most (91.2%) of the ESBL-producing isolates had CTX-M-type enzymes. A total of 10 alleles (3, 13, 14, 15, 24, 27, 28, 55, 65 and 98) from two CTX-M families (M1 and M9) were found. PFGE showed that the CTX-M-producing isolates were genetically diverse.
Conclusions: This study shows that food animals are a major reservoir of E. coli with multidrug resistance to many antibiotics that are ranked as critically important in human medicine.