FLUPOUL - Investigating the causes of the high prevalence of fluoroquinolone resistance in broilers

Last updated on 2-6-2022 by Sigrid De Keersmaecker
September 1, 2019
March 31, 2023

Service(s) working on this project

Partners

Jeroen Dewulf
Filip Boyen
Mathias Devreese
Moniek Ringenier

In short

In the context of the battle against antibiotics resistance, a new 2016 legislation banned and rationalized the use of critically important antibiotics in food-producing animals. Since then, the use of the antibiotics (fluoro)quinolones (FQ) in livestock farming has dropped dramatically, but unexpectedly high levels of FQ resistance in E. coli still remain in broiler farming. A high prevalence in food-producing animals represents a potential route of transmission to the human intestinal flora, which may contribute to rising resistant bacteria in the human clinical setting. In addition, the occurrence of FQ resistance in germs that can be transferred from animals to humans, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter is a direct risk to humans. In this study, we investigate the reason for this high level of FQ resistance, including through the use of whole genome sequencing, in order to obtain a better understanding of the problem and to implement the best (preventive) measures.

Project summary

In the context of the battle against antibiotics resistance, a new 2016 legislation banned and rationalized the use of critically important antibiotics, such as (fluoro)quinolones (FQ), in food-producing animals. Despite the low use of fluoroquinolones (FQ) in the broiler production, a high prevalence of FQ resistance is found in commensal E. coli in broilers. It is unclear what is at the origin of this resistance. This project aims to answer different research questions:

  • To what extent can residues of FQ  be found in the feathers of broilers and their parent stock? What is the genetic background of the FQ resistant E. coli strains in broilers?
  • What are the causes of the unexpected high FQ resistance in E. coli in broilers?
  • Which risk factors influence the occurrence of FQ resistance and are responsible for maintaining resistance within the population? Which mechanisms of co-resistance can be found and how can this be linked to the occurrence of FQ resistance? To what extent can FQ resistance be transferred through the production chain from parent stocks to hatcheries and to broiler farms? What is the role of the environment within the spread of FQ resistance? 
  • Is the occurrence of FQ resistance in commensal E. coli a possible source for the spread of FQ resistance to Campylobacter spp. and Salmonella spp.?

A cross-sectional study on broiler farms will examine to what extent the environment is a source for the spread of FQ resistance in broiler chickens and whether FQ resistant E. coli strains can already be found in the environment before chicks are even present on the farm. In addition, the objective is also to examine how the dynamics of the spread of FQ resistance develop within a flock of broilers and which factors influence this. Subsequently, a longitudinal study investigates to what extent the FQ resistance is transferred throughout the chain from parent stock farms over the hatcheries to broiler farms. Extensive bacteriological analysis, including Whole Genome Sequencing, aims to examine the phenotypic and genotypic properties of the bacteria in order to find associations that can explain the high prevalence. In addition, an analytical method is being set up for the detection of (fluoro)quinolones residues in broiler feathers in order to determine to what extent residues of (fluoro)quinolones remain in broiler feathers and parent stock, and this to be able to rule out with certainty that no (fluoro)quinolones use is the basis for the FQ resistance.

Results

In this project coordinated by Ghent University, TAG is involved in the WGS analysis of isolates and its data analysis.

Associated Health Topics

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