Avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC) cause widespread economic losses in poultry production and are potential zoonotic pathogens. Genome sequences of 95 APEC from commercial poultry operations in four Australian states that carried the class 1 integrase gene intI1, a proxy for multiple drug resistance (MDR), were characterized. Sequence types ST117 (22/95), ST350 (10/95), ST429 and ST57 (each 9/95), ST95 (8/95) and ST973 (7/95) dominated, while 24 STs were represented by one or two strains. FII and FIB repA genes were the predominant (each 93/95, 98 %) plasmid incompatibility groups identified, but those of B/O/K/Z (25/95, 26 %) and I1 (24/95, 25 %) were also identified frequently. Virulence-associated genes (VAGs) carried by ColV and ColBM virulence plasmids, including those encoding protectins [iss (91/95, 96 %), ompT (91/95, 96 %) and traT (90/95, 95 %)], iron-acquisition systems [sitA (88/95, 93 %), etsA (87/95, 92 %), iroN (84/95, 89 %) and iucD/iutA (84/95, 89 %)] and the putative avian haemolysin hylF (91/95, 96 %), featured prominently. Notably, mobile resistance genes conferring resistance to fluoroquinolones, colistin, extended-spectrum β-lactams and carbapenems were not detected in the genomes of these 95 APEC but carriage of the sulphonamide resistance gene, sul1 (59/95, 63 %), the trimethoprim resistance gene cassettes dfrA5 (48/95, 50 %) and dfrA1 (25/95, 27 %), the tetracycline resistance determinant tet(A) (51/95, 55 %) and the ampicillin resistance genes blaTEM-1A/B/C (48/95, 52 %) was common. IS26 (77/95, 81 %), an insertion element known to capture and mobilize a wide spectrum of antimicrobial resistance genes, was also frequently identified. These studies provide a baseline snapshot of drug-resistant APEC in Australia and their role in the carriage of ColV-like virulence plasmids.
Keywords: Escherichia coli; antimicrobial resistance; avian pathogenic E. coli; genomic epidemiology; microbial genomics; whole genome sequencing.