Background: In U.S. conventional poultry production, antimicrobials are used for therapeutic, prophylactic, and nontherapeutic purposes. Researchers have shown that this can select for antibiotic-resistant commensal and pathogenic bacteria on poultry farms and in poultry-derived products. However, no U.S. studies have investigated on-farm changes in resistance as conventional poultry farms transition to organic practices and cease using antibiotics. Objective: We investigated the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant Enterococcus on U.S. conventional poultry farms that transitioned to organic practices. Methods: Poultry litter, feed, and water samples were collected from 10 conventional and 10 newly organic poultry houses in 2008 and tested for Enterococcus. Enterococcus (n = 259) was identified using the Vitek ® 2 Compact System and tested for susceptibility to 17 antimicrobials using the Sensititre™ microbroth dilution system. Data were analyzed using SAS software (version 9.2), and statistical associations were derived based on generalized linear mixed models. Results: Litter, feed, and water samples were Enterococcus positive. The percentages of resistant Enterococcus faecalis and resistant Enterococcus faecium were significantly lower (p < 0.05) among isolates from newly organic versus conventional poultry houses for two (erythromycin and tylosin) and five (ciprofloxacin, gentamicin, nitrofurantoin, penicillin, and tetracycline) antimicrobials, respectively. Forty-two percent of E. faecalis isolates from conventional poultry houses were multidrug resistant (MDR; resistant to three or more antimicrobial classes), compared with 10% of isolates from newly organic poultry houses (p = 0.02); 84% of E. faecium isolates from conventional poultry houses were MDR, compared with 17% of isolates from newly organic poultry houses (p < 0.001). Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the voluntary removal of antibiotics from large-scale U.S. poultry farms that transition to organic practices is associated with a lower prevalence of antibiotic-resistant and MDR Enterococcus.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis