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J Food Prot. 2009 May;72(5):1089-93.

Antimicrobial resistance genes in Escherichia coli isolates recovered from a commercial beef processing plantt.

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lacombe Research Centre, Lacombe, Alberta, Canada T4L 1W1.


The goal of this study was to assess the distribution of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes in Escherichia coli isolates recovered from a commercial beef processing plant. A total of 123 antimicrobial-resistant E. coli isolates were used: 34 from animal hides, 10 from washed carcasses, 27 from conveyers for moving carcasses and meat, 26 from beef trimmings, and 26 from ground meat. The AMR genes for beta-lactamase (bla(CMY), bla(SHV), and bla(TEM), tetracycline (tet(A), tet(B), and tet(C)), sulfonamides (sul1, sul2, and sul3), and aminoglycoside (strA and strB) were detected by PCR assay. The distribution of tet(B), tet(C), sul1, bla(TEM), strA, and strB genes was significantly different among sample sources. E. coli isolates positive for the tet(B) gene and for both strA and strB genes together were significantly associated with hide, washed carcass, and ground meat samples, whereas sull gene was associated with washed carcass and beef trimming samples. The bla(TEM) gene was significantly associated with ground meat samples. About 50% of tetracycline-resistant E. coli isolates were positive for tet(A) (14%), tet(B) (15%), or tet(C) (21%) genes or both tet(B) and tet(C) genes together (3%). The sul2 gene or both sul1 and sul2 genes were found in 23% of sulfisoxazole-resistant E. coli isolates, whereas the sul3 gene was not found in any of the E. coli isolates tested. The majority of streptomycin-resistant E. coli isolates (76%) were positive for the strA and strB genes together. The bla(CMY), bla(TEM), and bla(SHV) genes were found in 12, 56, and 4%, respectively, of ampicillin-resistant E. coli isolates. These data suggest that E. coli isolates harboring AMR genes are widely distributed in meat processing environments and can create a pool of transferable resistance genes for pathogens. The results of this study underscore the need for effective hygienic and sanitation procedures in meat plants to reduce the risks of contamination with antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.

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