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Vet Res. 2001 May-Aug;32(3-4):227-41.

Resistance to antibiotics in the normal flora of animals.

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Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Oslo.


The normal bacterial flora contains antibiotic resistance genes to various degrees, even in individuals with no history of exposure to commercially prepared antibiotics. Several factors seem to increase the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in feces. One important factor is the exposure of the intestinal flora to antibacterial drugs. Antibiotics used as feed additives seem to play an important role in the development of antibiotic resistance in normal flora bacteria. The use of avoparcin as a feed additive has demonstrated that an antibiotic considered "safe" is responsible for increased levels of antibiotic resistance in the normal flora enterococci of animals fed with avoparcin and possibly in humans consuming products from these animals. However, other factors like stress from temperature, crowding, and management also seem to contribute to the occurrence of antibiotic resistance in normal flora bacteria. The normal flora of animals has been studied with respect to the development of antibiotic resistance over four decades, but there are few studies with the intestinal flora as the main focus. The results of earlier studies are valuable when focused against the recent understanding of mobile genetics responsible for bacterial antibiotic resistance. New studies should be undertaken to assess whether the development of antibiotic resistance in the normal flora is directly linked to the dramatic increase in antibiotic resistance of bacterial pathogens. Bacteria of the normal flora, often disregarded scientifically, should be studied with the intention of using them as active protection against infectious diseases and thereby contributing to the overall reduction of use of antibioties in both animals and humans.

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