Broilers are an important reservoir of extended spectrum beta-lactamase and AmpC beta-lactamase (ESBL/pAmpC)-producing bacteria. In previous studies, a single supply of a competitive exclusion (CE) product before challenge with a high dose of ESBL/pAmpC-producing Escherichia coli led to reduced colonization, excretion, and transmission, but could not prevent colonization. The hypothesized mechanism is competition; therefore, in this study the effect of a prolonged supply of CE products on colonization, excretion, and transmission of ESBL-producing E. coli after challenge with a low dose at day 0 or day 5 was investigated. Day-old broilers (Ross 308) (n = 220) were housed in isolators. Two CE products, containing unselected fermented intestinal bacteria (CEP) or a selection of pre- and probiotics (SYN), were supplied in drinking water from day 0 to 14. At day 0 or 5, broilers were challenged with 0.5 mL with 101 or 102 cfu/mL E. coli encoding the beta-lactamase gene blaCTX-M-1 on an IncI plasmid (CTX-M-1-E. coli). Presence and concentration of CTX-M-1-E. coli were determined using cloacal swabs (days 0–14, 16, 19, and 21) and cecal content (day 21). Cox proportional hazard model and a mixed linear regression model were used to determine the effect of the intervention on colonization and excretion (log10 cfu/g). When challenged on the day of hatch, no effect of CEP was observed. When challenged at day 5, both CEP and SYN led to a prevention of colonization with CTX-M-1-E. coli in some isolators. In the remaining isolators, we observed reduced time until colonization (hazard ratio between 3.71 × 10−3 and 3.11), excretion (up to −1.60 log10 cfu/g), and cecal content (up to −2.80 log10 cfu/g), and a 1.5 to 3-fold reduction in transmission rate. Colonization after a low-dose challenge with ESBL-producing E. coli can be prevented by CE products. However, if at least 1 bird is colonized it spreads through the whole flock. Prolonged supply of CE products, provided shortly after hatch, may be applicable as an intervention to reduce the prevalence of ESBL/pAmpC-producing bacteria in the broiler production chain.
- antimicrobial resistance
- competitive exclusion