Open Access Research article

Methodological comparisons for antimicrobial resistance surveillance in feedlot cattle

Katharine M Benedict1, Sheryl P Gow2, Sylvia Checkley3, Calvin W Booker4, Tim A McAllister5 and Paul S Morley1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1678, USA

2 Laboratory for Foodborne Zoonoses, Public Health Agency of Canada, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, S7N 5B4, Canada

3 Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 4Z6, Canada

4 Feedlot Health Management Services Ltd, Okotoks, AB, T1S 2A2, Canada

5 Lethbridge Research Center, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB T1J 4B1, Canada

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:216  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-216

Published: 21 October 2013



The purpose of this study was to objectively compare methodological approaches that might be utilized in designing an antimicrobial resistance (AMR) surveillance program in beef feedlot cattle. Specifically, four separate comparisons were made to investigate their potential impact on estimates for prevalence of AMR. These included investigating potential differences between 2 different susceptibility testing methods (broth microdilution and disc diffusion), between 2 different target bacteria (non-type-specific E. coli [NTSEC] and Mannheimia haemolytica), between 2 strategies for sampling feces (individual samples collected per rectum and pooled samples collected from the pen floor), and between 2 strategies for determining which cattle to sample (cattle that were culture-positive for Mannheimia haemolytica and those that were culture-negative).


Comparing two susceptibility testing methods demonstrated differences in the likelihood of detecting resistance between automated disk diffusion (BioMIC®) and broth microdilution (Sensititre®) for both E. coli and M. haemolytica. Differences were also detected when comparing resistance between two bacterial organisms within the same cattle; there was a higher likelihood of detecting resistance in E. coli than in M. haemolytica. Differences in resistance prevalence were not detected when using individual animal or composite pen sampling strategies. No differences in resistance prevalences were detected in E. coli recovered from cattle that were culture-positive for M. haemolytica compared to those that were culture-negative, suggesting that sampling strategies which targeted recovery of E. coli from M. haemolytica-positive cattle would not provide biased results.


We found that for general purposes, the susceptibility test selected for AMR surveillance must be carefully chosen considering the purpose of the surveillance since the ability to detect resistance appears to vary between these tests depending upon the population where they are applied. Continued surveillance of AMR in M. haemolytica recovered by nasopharyngeal swab is recommended if monitoring an animal health pathogen is an objective of the surveillance program as results of surveillance using fecal E. coli cannot be extrapolated to this important respiratory pathogen. If surveillance of E. coli was pursued in the same population, study populations could target animals that were culture-positive for M. haemolytica without biasing estimates for AMR in E. coli. Composite pen-floor sampling or sampling of individuals per-rectum could possibly be used interchangeably for monitoring resistance in E. coli.

Antibiotic resistance; Cattle; Escherichia coli; Mannheimia haemolytica; Susceptibility testing; Broth microdilution; Disk diffusion; Sampling