Fecal Carriage of Extended-Spectrum-β-Lactamase/AmpC-Producing Escherichia coli in Horses

Joost Hordijk*, Evangelia Farmakioti, Lidwien A.M. Smit, Birgitta Duim, Haitske Graveland, Mathijs J.P. Theelen, Jaap A. Wagenaar

*Corresponding author for this work

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A nationwide study on the occurrence of extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)/AmpC in nonhospitalized horses in the Netherlands was performed. Molecular characterization was done, and questionnaires were analyzed to identify factors associated with carriage. In total, 796 horse owners were approached; 281 of these submitted a fecal sample from their horse(s), resulting in 362 samples. All samples were cultured qualitatively in Luria-Bertani (LB) broth and subsequently on MacConkey agar, both supplemented with 1 mg/liter cefotaxime (LB+ and MC+). Positive samples were subsequently cultured quantitatively on MC+. Initial extended-spectrum-β-lactamase (ESBL)/AmpC screening was performed by PCR, followed by whole-genome sequencing on selected strains. Associations between ESBL/AmpC carriage and questionnaire items were analyzed using a univariate generalized estimating equation (GEE) regression analysis, followed by a multiple GEE model for relevant factors. In total, 39 of 362 samples (11%) were determined to be positive for ESBL/AmpC. blaCTX-M-1-carrying isolates were obtained from 77% of positive samples (n = 30). Other ESBL/AmpC genes observed included blaCTX-M-2, blaCTX-M-14, blaCTX-M-15, blaCTX-M-32, blaSHV-12, blaCMY-2, and blaACT-10 A high association between the presence of blaCTX-M-1 and IncHI1 plasmids was observed (46% of samples; n = 18). Based on core genome analysis (n = 48 isolates), six Escherichia coli clusters were identified, three of which represented 80% of the isolates. A negative association between ESBL/AmpC carriage and horses being in contact with other horses at a different site was observed. The presence of a dog on the premises and housing in a more densely human-populated region were positively associated.IMPORTANCE Extended-spectrum β-lactamases (ESBLs) are widespread in human and animal populations and in the environment. Many different ESBL variants exist. The dissemination of ESBLs within and between populations and the environment is also largely influenced by genetic mobile elements (e.g., plasmids) that facilitate spread of these ESBLs. In order to identify potential attributable ESBL sources for, e.g., the human population, it is important to identify the different ESBL variants, the bacteria carrying them, and the potential risk factors for ESBL carriage from other potential sources. This nationwide study focuses on ESBL carriage in the open horse population and investigated the molecular characteristics, geographical distribution throughout the Netherlands, and potential risk factors for fecal ESBL carriage in horses. These data can be used for future attribution studies in order to reduce potential transmission of ESBL-producing bacteria between sources.

Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • AmpC
  • antimicrobial resistance
  • equidae
  • ESBL
  • fecal carriage
  • risk factor

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