Imported One-Day-Old Chicks as Trojan Horses for Multidrug-Resistant Priority Pathogens Harboring mcr-9, rmtG, and Extended-Spectrum β-Lactamase Genes

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2022 Jan 25;88(2):e0167521. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01675-21. Epub 2021 Nov 3.


Antimicrobial resistance is a critical issue that is no longer restricted to hospital settings but also represents a growing problem involving intensive animal production systems. In this study, we performed a microbiological and molecular investigation of priority pathogens carrying transferable resistance genes to critical antimicrobials in 1-day-old chickens imported from Brazil to Uruguay. Bacterial identification was performed by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry, and antibiotic susceptibility was determined by Sensititre. Antimicrobial resistance genes were sought by PCR, and clonality was assessed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Four multidrug-resistant (MDR) representative strains were sequenced by an Illumina and/or Oxford Nanopore Technologies device. Twenty-eight MDR isolates were identified as Escherichia coli (n = 14), Enterobacter cloacae (n = 11), or Klebsiella pneumoniae (n = 3). While resistance to oxyiminocephalosporins was due to blaCTX-M-2, blaCTX-M-8, blaCTX-M-15, blaCTX-M-55, and blaCMY-2, plasmid-mediated quinolone resistance was associated with the qnrB19, qnrE1, and qnrB2 genes. Finally, resistance to aminoglycosides and fosfomycin was due to the presence of 16S rRNA methyltransferase rmtG and fosA-type genes, respectively. Short- and long-read genome sequencing of E. cloacae strain ODC_Eclo3 revealed the presence of IncQ/rmtG (pUR-EC3.1; 7,400 bp), IncHI2A/mcr-9.1/blaCTX-M-2 (pUR-EC3.2, ST16 [pMLST; 408,436 bp), and IncN2/qnrB19/aacC3/aph(3″)-Ib (pUR-EC3.3) resistance plasmids. Strikingly, the blaCTX-M-2 gene was carried by a novel Tn1696-like composite transposon designated Tn7337. In summary, we report that imported 1-day-old chicks can act as Trojan horses for the hidden spread of WHO critical-priority MDR pathogens harboring mcr-9, rmtG, and extended-spectrum β-lactamase genes in poultry farms, which is a critical issue from a One Health perspective. IMPORTANCE Antimicrobial resistance is considered a significant problem for global health, including within the concept of One Health; therefore, the food chain connects human health and animal health directly. In this work, we searched for microorganisms resistant to antibiotics considered critical for human health in intestinal microbiota of 1-day-old baby chicks imported to Uruguay from Brazil. We describe genes for resistance to antibiotics whose use the WHO has indicated to "watch" or "reserve" (AWaRe classification), such as rmtG and mcr9.1, which confer resistance to all the aminoglycosides and colistin, respectively, among other genes, and their presence in new mobile genetic elements that favor its dissemination. The sustained entry of these microorganisms evades the sanitary measures implemented by the countries and production establishments to reduce the selection of resistant microorganisms. These silently imported resistant microorganisms could explain a considerable part of the antimicrobial resistance problems found in the production stages of the system.

Keywords: 1-day-old chicks; extended-spectrum β-lactamase; mcr-9; multidrug-resistant pathogens; rmtG.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Chickens* / genetics
  • Colistin
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins* / genetics
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • beta-Lactamases / genetics


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • beta-Lactamases
  • Colistin