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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Oct;74(20):6178-86. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00704-08. Epub 2008 Aug 22.

Diversity and distribution of commensal fecal Escherichia coli bacteria in beef cattle administered selected subtherapeutic antimicrobials in a feedlot setting.

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Research Centre, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.


Escherichia coli strains isolated from fecal samples were screened to examine changes in phenotypic and genotypic characteristics including antimicrobial susceptibility, clonal type, and carriage of resistance determinants. The goal of this 197-day study was to investigate the influence of administration of chlortetracycline alone (T) or in combination with sulfamethazine (TS) on the development of resistance, dissemination of defined strain types, and prevalence of resistance determinants in feedlot cattle. Inherent tetracycline resistance was detected in cattle with no prior antimicrobial exposure. Antimicrobial administration was not found to be essential for the maintenance of inherently ampicillin-resistant and tetracycline-resistant (Tet(r)) E. coli in control animals; however, higher Tet(r) E. coli shedding was observed in animals subjected to the two treatments. At day 0, high tetracycline (26.7%), lower sulfamethoxazole-tetracycline (19.2%), and several other resistances were detected, which by the finishing phase (day 197) were restricted to ampicillin-tetracycline (47.5%), tetracycline (31.7%), and ampicillin-tetracycline-sulfamethoxazole (20.8%) from both treated and untreated cattle. Among the determinants, bla(TEM1), tet(A), and sul2 were prevalent at days 0 and 197. Further, E. coli from day 0 showed diverse antibiogram profiles and strain types, which by the finishing phase were limited to up to three, irrespective of the treatment. Some genetically identical strains expressed different phenotypes and harbored diverse determinants, indicating that mobile genetic elements contribute to resistance dissemination. This was supported by an increased linked inheritance of ampicillin and tetracycline resistance genes and prevalence of specific strains at day 197. Animals in the cohort shed increasingly similar genotypes by the finishing phase due to animal-to-animal strain transmission. Thus, characterizing inherent resistance and propagation of cohort-specific strains is crucial for determining antimicrobial resistance in cattle.

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