Transmission dynamics of extended-spectrum β-lactamase and AmpC β-lactamase-producing Escherichia coli in a broiler flock without antibiotic use

Patricia M.C. Huijbers, E.A.M. Graat*, Angela H.A.M. van Hoek, Christiaan Veenman, Mart C.M. de Jong, Engeline van Duijkeren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Extended-spectrum and AmpC β-lactamase-producing Escherichia coli (ESBL/AmpC-EC) are found throughout the broiler production pyramid. Transmission of resistance between broilers and humans could occur at any point, representing a potential public health issue. Insight in farm transmission dynamics could provide a basis for control, leading to fewer contaminated broilers. The aim was quantifying transmission rates and routes of ESBL/AmpC-EC, and specific phylogenetic groups, in an organic broiler flock without antibiotic use. In each of two consecutive production rounds, 80 randomly chosen broilers were followed individually. Cloacal swabs from these, 20 other randomly chosen broilers, and 11 environmental samples were taken at several moments from arrival till slaughter. ESBL/AmpC-EC were isolated by selective pre-enrichment, and ESBL/AmpC-genes and E. coli phylogenetic groups were determined. Transmission parameters (β) were estimated using a Generalised Linear Model with a susceptible-infectious-susceptible model. Effect of direct broiler contact as compared to contact through the environment and previous carriage c.q. infectious status and their interaction were included as explanatory variables. Multiplying β by the length of the infectious period gives the reproduction ratio (R). On day 1, prevalence was 28.8% (95%CI 19.2–40.0%) and 0.0% (95%CI 0.0–4.5%) among individually followed broilers, in round 1 and 2 respectively. In round 2, the environment was positive before arrival of day-old chicks. After 3 days, almost 100% of broilers and environmental samples were positive in both rounds. Most samples were positive for CTX-M-1 group genes, and A1 and B1 were predominant phylogenetic groups. From day 3 there was a shift towards more phylogenetic groups. R was 1.70 (95%CI 0.55–5.25) for total ESBL/AmpC-EC. Risk for broilers to become infectious was lower if previously infectious (βpreviously infectious = 0.02 vs. βnot previously infectious = 3.41; P <0.0001). For phylogenetic groups separately, R was 0.88 (95%CI 0.38–2.07), 0.51 (95%CI 0.27–0.98), 0.99 (95%CI 0.65–1.51) for A1, B1 and rest (i.e. A0, B2, D1, D2) groups, respectively. The interaction effect for A1 and B1 was reflected in the fact that when broilers were previous infectious, the environment was relatively more important for transmission of the A1 group, while this was direct contact between broilers for the B1 group. Positive day-old chicks and the environment both play a role in introduction and transmission of ESBL/AmpC-EC in flocks. These results suggest that, even without selective pressure from antibiotics, total ESBL/AmpC-EC persistence, and resulting endemic situation, seem to be caused by shifts in carriage of different phylogenetic groups. It implies that contaminated broilers enter the slaughterhouse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-19
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • ESBL
  • Organic farm
  • Phylogenetic group
  • Reproduction ratio


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