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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Jul;74(14):4405-16. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00489-08. Epub 2008 May 23.

Effect of subtherapeutic administration of antibiotics on the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli bacteria in feedlot cattle.

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Centre, 5403 1st Ave. South, P.O. Box 3000, Lethbridge, Alberta T1J 4B1, Canada.


Antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli in 300 feedlot steers receiving subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics was investigated through the collection of 3,300 fecal samples over a 314-day period. Antibiotics were selected based on the commonality of use in the industry and included chlortetracycline plus sulfamethazine (TET-SUL), chlortetracycline (TET), virginiamycin, monensin, tylosin, or no antibiotic supplementation (control). Steers were initially fed a barley silage-based diet, followed by transition to a barley grain-based diet. Despite not being administered antibiotics prior to arrival at the feedlot, the prevalences of steers shedding TET- and ampicillin (AMP)-resistant E. coli were >40 and <30%, respectively. Inclusion of TET-SUL in the diet increased the prevalence of steers shedding TET- and AMP-resistant E. coli and the percentage of TET- and AMP-resistant E. coli in the total generic E. coli population. Irrespective of treatment, the prevalence of steers shedding TET-resistant E. coli was higher in animals fed grain-based compared to silage-based diets. All steers shed TET-resistant E. coli at least once during the experiment. A total of 7,184 isolates were analyzed for MIC of antibiotics. Across antibiotic treatments, 1,009 (13.9%), 7 (0.1%), and 3,413 (47.1%) E. coli isolates were resistant to AMP, gentamicin, or TET, respectively. In addition, 131 (1.8%) and 143 (2.0%) isolates exhibited potential resistance to extended-spectrum beta-lactamases, as indicated by either ceftazidime or cefpodoxime resistance. No isolates were resistant to ciprofloxacin. The findings of the present study indicated that subtherapeutic administration of tetracycline in combination with sulfamethazine increased the prevalence of tetracycline- and AMP-resistant E. coli in cattle. However, resistance to antibiotics may be related to additional environmental factors such as diet.

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