Chicken Meat-Associated Enterococci: Influence of Agricultural Antibiotic Use and Connection to the Clinic


Manson AL, Van Tyne D, Straub TJ, Clock S, Crupain M, Rangan U, Gilmore MS, Earl AM. Chicken Meat-Associated Enterococci: Influence of Agricultural Antibiotic Use and Connection to the Clinic. Appl Environ Microbiol 2019;85(22)

Date Published:

2019 Nov 15


Industrial farms are unique, human-created ecosystems that provide the perfect setting for the development and dissemination of antibiotic resistance. Agricultural antibiotic use amplifies naturally occurring resistance mechanisms from soil ecologies, promoting their spread and sharing with other bacteria, including those poised to become endemic within hospital environments. To better understand the role of enterococci in the movement of antibiotic resistance from farm to table to clinic, we characterized over 300 isolates of cultured from raw chicken meat purchased at U.S. supermarkets by the Consumers Union in 2013. and were the predominant species found, and antimicrobial susceptibility testing uncovered striking levels of resistance to medically important antibiotic classes, particularly from classes approved by the FDA for use in animal production. While nearly all isolates were resistant to at least one drug, bacteria from meat labeled as raised without antibiotics had fewer resistances, particularly for Whole-genome sequencing of 92 isolates revealed that both commensal- and clinical-isolate-like enterococcal strains were associated with chicken meat, including isolates bearing important resistance-conferring elements and virulence factors. The ability of enterococci to persist in the food system positions them as vehicles to move resistance genes from the industrial farm ecosystem into more human-proximal ecologies. Bacteria that contaminate food can serve as a conduit for moving drug resistance genes from farm to table to clinic. Our results show that chicken meat-associated isolates of are often multidrug resistant, closely related to pathogenic lineages, and harbor worrisome virulence factors. These drug-resistant agricultural isolates could thus represent important stepping stones in the evolution of enterococci into drug-resistant human pathogens. Although significant efforts have been made over the past few years to reduce the agricultural use of antibiotics, continued assessment of agricultural practices, including the roles of processing plants, shared breeding flocks, and probiotics as sources for resistance spread, is needed in order to slow the evolution of antibiotic resistance. Because antibiotic resistance is a global problem, global policies are needed to address this threat. Additional measures must be taken to mitigate the development and spread of antibiotic resistance elements from farms to clinics throughout the world.

Last updated on 12/02/2019