Antimicrobial resistance in escherichia coli isolated in wastewater and sludge from poultry slaughterhouse wastewater plants

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The authors investigated the antimicrobial resistance of Escherichia coli isolates in 22 samples of crude inflow, treated effluent, and sludge collected at the wastewater treatment plants of eight poultry slaughterhouses in Portugal. A total of 549 E. coli strains were recovered and tested for resistance to 12 antimicrobial agents. Multidrug resistance was present in 55.7 percent of the isolates. Resistance to tetracycline, ampicillin, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, streptomycin, and enrofloxacin was found in 80.7 percent, 56.5 percent, 47.5 percent, 39.2 percent, and 18.4 percent of the isolates, respectively. Resistance rates of E. coli to nearly all of the tested antibiotics were higher in the strains obtained from the six slaughterhouses that handled conventional broilers than in the two slaughterhouses that handled free-range broilers. Wastewater treatment resulted in an E. coli decrease of between 0.5 log and 3 log; nevertheless, an average of 5.2 × 105 CFUs/100 mL were present in the outflow of the plants. These data indicate that the use of antimicrobials in poultry production leads to the selection of a large pool of resistance genes and that wastewater treatment processes are unable to inactivate the bacteria and thus will result in dissemination of resistant E. coli into the environment.

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