The Role of Mobile Genetic Elements in the Spread of Antimicrobial-Resistant Escherichia coli From Chickens to Humans in Small-Scale Production Poultry Operations in Rural Ecuador.


Small-scale production poultry operations are increasingly common worldwide. To investigate how these operations influence antimicrobial resistance and mobile genetic elements (MGEs), Escherichia coli isolates were sampled from small-scale production birds (raised in confined spaces with antibiotics in feed), household birds (no movement constraints; fed on scraps), and humans associated with these birds in rural Ecuador (2010-2012). Isolates were screened for genes associated with MGEs as well as phenotypic resistance to 12 antibiotics. Isolates from small-scale production birds had significantly elevated odds of resistance to 7 antibiotics and presence of MGE genes compared with household birds (adjusted odds ratio (OR) range = 2.2-87.9). Isolates from humans associated with small-scale production birds had elevated odds of carrying an integron (adjusted OR = 2.0; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.06, 3.83) compared with humans associated with household birds, as well as resistance to sulfisoxazole (adjusted OR = 1.9; 95% CI: 1.01, 3.60) and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (adjusted OR = 2.1; 95% CI: 1.13, 3.95). Stratifying by the presence of MGEs revealed antibiotic groups that are explained by biological links to MGEs; in particular, resistance to sulfisoxazole, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, or tetracycline was highest among birds and humans when MGE exposures were present. Small-scale production poultry operations might select for isolates carrying MGEs, contributing to elevated levels of resistance in this setting.

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