Background: The impact of enterococci in human health has been growing for the last decades, mainly due to their resistance to several antimicrobial agents. Human consumption of contaminated meat, especially poultry, has been identified as a possible route of transmission. The aim of the present study was to evaluate and compare the antimicrobial resistance profiles and virulence genes of enterococci isolated from Portuguese conventional and free-range broiler farms.
Results: Antibiotic susceptibility testing showed high frequencies of resistance to tetracycline in both farming systems. Resistance to erythromycin and gentamicin were detected in about half of the isolates. Resistance to penicillin was the less frequently observed and no vancomycin resistant isolates were identified. The majority of the enterococcal isolates, from either farming systems, were resistant to more than one antibiotic, and no statistical associations were found, except for penicillin resistance which associated with the genetic clusters. No differences were found between farming systems regarding the prevalence of tet(M), erm(B), aac (6')-Ie-aph (2″)-Ia and pbp5 genes, nevertheless pbp5 prevalence was associated with the different genetic clusters. Hemolytic activity was identified in 26.47% of all isolates and gelatinase activity in 50%. The gelE gene was identified in the majority of the isolates, whereas esp and agg genes were rarely detected. The cylA determinant was not detected in any of the isolates.
Conclusions: Overall, results suggest that similar resistance patterns and virulence genes can be found in both farming systems, though enterococci in free-range conditions should be less prone to acquire further resistance genes.
Keywords: Antimicrobial resistance; Broilers; Enterococcus; Farming system; Resistance genes; Virulence genes.
© 2021. The Author(s).