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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Antimicrobial resistance of Escherichia coli isolates from broiler chickens and humans

Tricia D Miles1, Wayne McLaughlin2 and Paul D Brown2*

Author Affiliations

1 Veterinary Services Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Hope Gardens, Jamaica

2 Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Biochemistry Section, University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica

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BMC Veterinary Research 2006, 2:7  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-2-7

Published: 6 February 2006



Antimicrobial usage is considered the most important factor promoting the emergence, selection and dissemination of antimicrobial-resistant microorganisms in both veterinary and human medicine. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence and genetic basis of tetracycline resistance in faecal Escherichia coli isolates from healthy broiler chickens and compare these data with isolates obtained from hospitalized patients in Jamaica.


Eighty-two E. coli strains isolated from faecal samples of broiler chickens and urine and wound specimens of hospitalized patients were analyzed by agar disc diffusion to determine their susceptibility patterns to 11 antimicrobial agents. Tetracycline resistance determinants were investigated by plasmid profiling, transformations, and amplification of plasmid-borne resistance genes. Tetracycline resistance occurred at a frequency of 82.4% in avian isolates compared to 43.8% in human isolates. In addition, among avian isolates there was a trend towards higher resistance frequencies to kanamycin and nalidixic acid (p < 0.05), while a greater percentage of human isolates were resistant to chloramphenicol and gentamicin (p < 0.05). Multiple drug resistance was found in isolates from both sources and was usually associated with tetracycline resistance. Tetracycline-resistant isolates from both avian and human sources contained one or several plasmids, which were transmissible by transformation of chemically-competent E. coli. Tetracycline resistance was mediated by efflux genes tetB and/or tetD.


The present study highlights the prevalence of multiple drug resistant E. coli among healthy broiler chickens in Jamaica, possibly associated with expression of tetracycline resistance. While there did not appear to be a common source for multiple drug resistance in the strains from avian or human origin, the genes encoding resistance are similar. These results suggest that genes are disseminated in the environment and warrant further investigation of the possibility for avian sources acting as reservoirs for tetracycline resistance.