The breeding of meat rabbits is an important sector in the livestock industry in Italy. The focus of this study was to describe the antibiotic resistance profile distribution among the Methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus isolated in a rabbit farm. From 400 animals of different ages and three farm workers, 96 randomly selected strains isolated from various anatomical sites and lesions were analysed. According to spa typing and the resistance profiles towards veterinary and human antibiotics, 26 pathotypes were identified. The highest resistance was observed against Tetracyclines (92.3%) and Macrolides (80.8%), while almost all were susceptible to Penicillins, according to the limited use of β-lactams on the farm. In total, 92.3% of pathotypes were multidrug resistant (MDRs). Two MDR pathotypes belonging to the t2802 spa type were isolated from both farmers and rabbits. Age categories harboured significantly different pathotypes (p = 0.019), while no association was found between pathotypes and lesions (p = 0.128) or sampling sites (p = 0.491). The antibiotic resistance was observed to increase with the time spent in the farm environment (age category). The selective pressure exerted by antibiotic use acted by giving advantage to more resistant strains rather than by lowering susceptibility to various drug categories within strains.
Keywords: Italy; Staphylococcus aureus; antibiotic resistance profiles; pathotype; rabbits; spa type.