Antibiotic-mediated changes in the fecal microbiome of broiler chickens define the incidence of antibiotic resistance genes

Microbiome. 2018 Feb 13;6(1):34. doi: 10.1186/s40168-018-0419-2.


Background: Antimicrobial agents have been widely used in animal farms to prevent and treat animal diseases and to promote growth. Antimicrobial agents may change the bacterial community and enhance the resistome in animal feces. We used metagenome-wide analysis to investigate the changes in bacterial community, variations in antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), and their bacterial hosts in the feces of broiler chickens over a full-treatment course of chlortetracycline at low and therapeutic dose levels.

Results: The effects of chlortetracycline on resistome were dependent on the specific ARG subtypes and not simply the overall community-level ARGs. Therapeutic dose of chlortetracycline promoted the abundance of tetracycline resistance genes (tetA and tetW) and inhibited multidrug resistance genes (mdtA, mdtC, mdtK, ompR, and TolC). The therapeutic dose of chlortetracycline led to loss of Proteobacteria mainly due to the decrease of Escherichia/Shigella (from 72 to 58%). Inhibition of Escherichia by chlortetracycline was the primary reason for the decrease of genes resistant to multiple drugs in the therapeutic dose group. The ARG host Bifidobacterium were enriched due to tetW harbored by Bifidobacterium under chlortetracycline treatment. Escherichia was always the major host for multidrug resistance genes, whereas the primary host was changed from Escherichia to Klebsiella for aminoglycoside resistance genes with the treatment of therapeutic dose of chlortetracycline.

Conclusions: We provided the first metagenomic insights into antibiotic-mediated alteration of ARG-harboring bacterial hosts at community-wide level in chicken feces. These results indicated that the changes in the structure of antibiotic-induced feces microbial communities accompany changes in the abundance of bacterial hosts carrying specific ARGs in the feces microbiota. These findings will help to optimize therapeutic schemes for the effective treatment of antibiotic resistant pathogens in poultry farms. Resistome variations in faecal microbiome of chickens exposed to chlortetracycline.

Keywords: Antibiotic resistance genes; Bacterial community; Chickens; Feces; Metagenome; Resistome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bifidobacterium / classification
  • Bifidobacterium / drug effects
  • Bifidobacterium / genetics
  • Bifidobacterium / isolation & purification
  • Chickens
  • Chlortetracycline / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Escherichia / classification
  • Escherichia / drug effects
  • Escherichia / genetics
  • Escherichia / isolation & purification
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Klebsiella / classification
  • Klebsiella / drug effects
  • Klebsiella / genetics
  • Klebsiella / isolation & purification
  • Metagenomics
  • Microbiota / drug effects
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Chlortetracycline