Antibiotic Resistance in Animal and Environmental Samples Associated with Small-Scale Poultry Farming in Northwestern Ecuador.


The effects of animal agriculture on the spread of antibiotic resistance (AR) are cross-cutting and thus require a multidisciplinary perspective. Here we use ecological, epidemiological, and ethnographic methods to examine populations of Escherichia coli circulating in the production poultry farming environment versus the domestic environment in rural Ecuador, where small-scale poultry production employing nontherapeutic antibiotics is increasingly common. We sampled 262 "production birds" (commercially raised broiler chickens and laying hens) and 455 "household birds" (raised for domestic use) and household and coop environmental samples from 17 villages between 2010 and 2013. We analyzed data on zones of inhibition from Kirby-Bauer tests, rather than established clinical breakpoints for AR, to distinguish between populations of organisms. We saw significantly higher levels of AR in bacteria from production versus household birds; resistance to either amoxicillin-clavulanate, cephalothin, cefotaxime, and gentamicin was found in 52.8% of production bird isolates and 16% of household ones. A strain jointly resistant to the 4 drugs was exclusive to a subset of isolates from production birds (7.6%) and coop surfaces (6.5%) and was associated with a particular purchase site. The prevalence of AR in production birds declined with bird age (P < 0.01 for all antibiotics tested except tetracycline, sulfisoxazole, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole). Farming status did not impact AR in domestic environments at the household or village level. Our results suggest that AR associated with small-scale poultry farming is present in the immediate production environment and likely originates from sources outside the study area. These outside sources might be a better place to target control efforts than local management practices. IMPORTANCE In developing countries, small-scale poultry farming employing antibiotics as growth promoters is being advanced as an inexpensive source of protein and income. Here, we present the results of a large ecoepidemiological study examining patterns of antibiotic resistance (AR) in E. coli isolates from small-scale poultry production environments versus domestic environments in rural Ecuador, where such backyard poultry operations have become established over the past decade. Our previous research in the region suggests that introduction of AR bacteria through travel and commerce may be an important source of AR in villages of this region. This report extends the prior analysis by examining small-scale production chicken farming as a potential source of resistant strains. Our results suggest that AR strains associated with poultry production likely originate from sources outside the study area and that these outside sources might be a better place to target control efforts than local management practices.

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