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Poult Sci. 2014 Apr;93(4):891-7. doi: 10.3382/ps.2013-03600.

Exposure of juvenile Leghorn chickens to lead acetate enhances antibiotic resistance in enteric bacterial flora.

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  • 1Department of Veterinary Biosciences and Diagnostic Imaging, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens 30602.


Heavy metals have been implicated for their ability to increase antibiotic resistance in bacteria collected from polluted waters, independent of antibiotic exposure. Specific-pathogen-free Leghorn chickens were therefore given Pb acetate in the drinking water to expose the enteric bacteria to Pb and to determine if antibiotic resistance changed in these bacteria. Concentrations of Pb used were 0.0, 0.01, 0.1, 1.0, or 10.0 mM; birds given the highest 2 concentrations showed signs of moribundity and dehydration and were removed from the study. Vent culture samples were collected for bacterial cultures on d 0 before Pb exposure, d 7 and 14, and then birds were euthanized by CO2 gas for necropsy on d 14, at which time intestinal contents were also collected for bacterial cultures. Fecal swabs but not intestinal samples from Pb-exposed birds contained isolates that had significantly elevated antibiotic resistance. Some of the isolates contained bacteria that were resistant to up to 20 antibiotics. These results suggest the need for repeated studies in chickens infected with zoonotic pathogens.


Leghorn chicken; antimicrobial resistance; lead acetate

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