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Lett Appl Microbiol. 1998 Apr;26(4):253-8.

Antimicrobial resistance of bacteria isolated from slaughtered and retail chickens in South Africa.

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Department of Zoology, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa.


Animal feed is increasingly being supplemented with antibiotics to decrease the risk of epidemics in animal husbandry. This practice could lead to the selection for antibiotic resistant micro-organisms. The aim of this study was to determine the level of antibiotic resistant bacteria present on retail and abattoir chicken. Staphylococci, Enterobacteriaceae, Salmonella and isolates from total aerobic plate count were tested for resistance to vancomycin, streptomycin, methicillin, tetracycline and gentamicin using the disc diffusion susceptibility test; resistance to penicillin was determined using oxacillin. Results from the antibiotic code profile indicated that many of the bacterial strains were displaying multiple antibiotic resistance (MAR). A larger proportion of resistance to most antibiotics, except for vancomycin, was displayed by the abattoir samples, therefore suggesting that the incidence of MAR pathogenic bacteria was also higher in the abattoir samples. This resistance spectrum of abattoir samples is a result of farmers adding low doses of antibiotics to livestock feed to improve feeding efficiency so that the animals need less food to reach marketable weight. The lower incidence of MAR pathogenic bacteria in the retail samples is a result of resistance genes being lost due to lack of selective pressure, or to the fact that the resistant flora are being replaced by more sensitive flora during processing. The use of subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics for prophylaxis and as growth promoters remains a concern as the laws of evolution dictate that microbes will eventually develop resistance to practically any antibiotic. Selective pressure exerted by widespread antimicrobial use is therefore the driving force in the development of antibiotic resistance. This study indicated that a large proportion of the bacterial flora on fresh chicken is resistant to a variety of antibiotics, and that resultant food-related infections will be more difficult to treat.

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