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J Appl Microbiol. 2011 Feb;110(2):541-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2010.04907.x. Epub 2010 Dec 10.

In situ ESBL conjugation from avian to human Escherichia coli during cefotaxime administration.

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Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Avian Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan, Merelbeke, Belgium.



The behaviour of an Escherichia coli isolate of broiler origin harbouring a bla(TEM-52) -carrying plasmid (lactose-negative mutant of B1-54, IncII group) was studied in an in situ continuous flow culture system, simulating the human caecum and the ascending colon during cefotaxime administration.


Fresh faeces from a healthy volunteer, negative for cephalosporin-resistant E. coli, were selected to prepare inocula. The microbiota was monitored by plating on diverse selective media, and a shift in the populations of bacteria was examined by 16S rDNA PCR denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. Escherichia coli transconjugants were verified by plasmid and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis profiles (PFGE). The avian extended-spectrum β-lactamase-positive E. coli was able to proliferate without selective pressure of cefotaxime, and E. coli transconjugants of human origin were detected 24 h after inoculation of the donor strain. Upon administration of cefotaxime to the fresh medium, an increase in the population size of E. coli B1-54 and the transconjugants was observed. PFGE and plasmid analysis revealed a limited number of human E. coli clones receptive for the bla(TEM-52) -carrying plasmid.


These observations provide evidence of the maintenance of an E. coli strain of poultry origin and the horizontal gene transfer in the human commensal bowel microbiota even without antimicrobial treatment.


The fact that an E. coli strain of poultry origin might establish itself and transfer its bla gene to commensal human E. coli raises public health concerns.

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