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Environ Res. 2009 Aug;109(6):682-9. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2009.05.005. Epub 2009 Jun 21.

Fate of antimicrobial-resistant enterococci and staphylococci and resistance determinants in stored poultry litter.

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Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


The use of antimicrobials in commercial broiler poultry production results in the presence of drug-resistant bacteria shed in the excreta of these birds. Because these wastes are largely land-disposed these pathogens can affect the surrounding environment and population. In this analysis, we characterized the survival of antimicrobial-resistant enterococci and staphylococci and resistance genes in poultry litter. Temperature, moisture, and pH were measured in the litter over a 120-day period from storage sheds at three conventional US broiler chicken farms, as well as colony-forming units of Enterococcus spp. and Staphylococcus spp. Selected isolates from each sampling event were tested for resistance to eight antimicrobials used in poultry feeds as well as the presence of resistance genes and mobile genetic elements. Temperatures greater than 60 degrees C were only intermittently observed in the core of the litter piles. Both antimicrobial-resistant enterococci and staphylococci, as well as resistance genes persisted throughout the 120-day study period. Resistance genes identified in the study include: erm(A), erm(B), erm (C), msr(A/B), msr(C), and vat(E). This study indicates that typical storage practices of poultry litter are insufficient for eliminating drug-resistant enterococci and staphylococci, which may then be released into the environment through land disposal.

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