Dissemination of Quinolone-Resistant Escherichia coli in the Norwegian Broiler and Pig Production Chains and Possible Persistence in the Broiler Production Environment

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2020 Mar 18;86(7):e02769-19. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02769-19. Print 2020 Mar 18.


In Norway, the use of quinolones in livestock populations is very low, and prophylactic use is prohibited. Despite this, quinolone-resistant Escherichia coli (QREC) isolates are present at low levels in several animal species. The source of these QREC isolates is unknown. The aim of this study was to characterize and compare QREC isolates from different animal species to identify putative factors that may promote the occurrence of QREC. A total of 280 QREC isolates, from broilers, pigs, red foxes, and wild birds, were whole-genome sequenced and analyzed. Well-known chromosomal and plasmid-mediated resistance mechanisms were identified. In addition, mutations in marR, marA, and rpoB causing novel amino acid substitutions in their respective proteins were detected. Phylogenetic analyses were used to determine the relationships between the isolates. Quinolone resistance mechanism patterns appeared to follow sequence type groups. Similar QREC isolates with similar resistance mechanism patterns were detected from the samples, and further phylogenetic analysis indicated close evolutionary relationships between specific isolates from different sources. This suggests the dissemination of highly similar QREC isolates between animal species and also the persistence of QREC strains within the broiler production chain. This highlights the importance of both control measures at the top of the production chain as well as biosecurity measures to avoid the further dissemination and persistence of QREC in these environments.IMPORTANCE Since antimicrobial usage is low in Norwegian animal husbandry, Norway is an ideal country to study antimicrobial resistance in the absence of selective pressure from antimicrobial usage. In particular, the usage of quinolones is very low, which makes it possible to investigate the spread and development of quinolone resistance in natural environments. Comparison of quinolone-resistant E. coli (QREC) isolates from livestock and wild animals in light of this low quinolone usage provides new insights into the development and dissemination of QREC in both natural and production environments. With this information, preventive measures may be taken to prevent further dissemination within Norwegian livestock and between other animals, thus maintaining the favorable situation in Norway.

Keywords: AMR; Escherichia coli; QREC; animals; antimicrobial resistance; genomics; livestock; quinolone; wildlife.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Chickens*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial*
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / physiology*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / microbiology
  • Escherichia coli Infections / veterinary*
  • Housing, Animal
  • Norway
  • Poultry Diseases / microbiology*
  • Quinolones / pharmacology*
  • Sus scrofa
  • Swine
  • Swine Diseases / microbiology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Quinolones