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News Article

Study shows resistant bacteria in pig, chicken intestines linked to antibiotic use

Antimicrobial resistance load higher in pigs, while greater variety of resistance genes observed in chickens

In a study into antibiotic resistance in the intestinal tracts of pigs and poultry, faecal samples of more than 9000 pigs and chickens were examined. Researchers at Wageningen Bioveterinary Research and Utrecht University along with an international team visited 181 pig and 178 broiler farms in 9 European Union countries, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the Netherlands. The results of the study, published in Nature Microbiology, indicate that the level of antibiotic resistance in the intestinal tracts of pigs and broiler chickens is linked to antibiotic usage.

The study revealed that the quantity and type of resistance genes present in the intestinal tracts differ according to the type of animal and country. The pigs and chickens, and the nine countries differ as far as resistance to antibiotics is concerned. This is a reflection of the difference in the degree of antibiotic usage per animal species and country. Resistance was greater in the intestinal tracts of pigs than in chickens, whereas a greater variety of resistance genes occur in chickens. The results of the study are of relevance not only to animals, but also to humans since we are all exposed to resistance genes through food.

A new approach to measuring resistance was adopted; information on the DNA in the dung of the animals was collected. This information which codes for antimicrobial resistance in the overall bacterial community in the intestinal tract, is known as the resistome and comprises all the resistance genes present in the intestinal tract.

This publication is one of the outcomes of an international collaboration within the EU's EFFORT project: ‘Ecology from Farm to Fork Of microbial drug Resistance and Transmission’. The project aims to study the complex epidemiology and ecology of antimicrobial resistance and the interactions between bacteria in animals, the food chain and the environment.

The project, which runs from 2013 up to 2018, is being coordinated by Jaap Wagenaar and Haitske Graveland of Utrecht University. The international team consists of 19 partners from 10 European countries (The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and France). The Dutch institutes that played a major role in the recently published article are Utrecht University, faculty of Veterinary Science (Dick Heederik, Lidwien Smit, Heike Schmitt, Roosmarijn Luiken, Liese van Gompel, Alejandro Dorado and Jaap Wagenaar), and Wageningen Bioveterinary Research in Lelystad (Alex Bossers and Dik Mevius). The concluding symposium of the EFFORT project will take place in TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht in November.

Abundance and diversity of the faecal resistome in slaughter pigs and broilers in nine European countries. Patrick Munk, Berith Elkær Knudsen, Oksana Lukjancenko, Ana Sofia Ribeiro Duarte, Liese Van Gompel, Roosmarijn E. C. Luiken, Lidwien A. M. Smit, Heike Schmitt, Alejandro Dorado Garcia, Rasmus Borup Hansen, Thomas Nordahl Petersen, Alex Bossers, Etienne Ruppé, EFFORT Group, Ole Lund, Tine Hald, Sünje Johanna Pamp, Håkan Vigre, Dick Heederik, Jaap A. Wagenaar, Dik Mevius & Frank M. Aarestrup. Nature Microbiology (2018) 3:898–908,, published 23 July 2018

Article details

  • Date
  • 23 August 2018
  • Source
  • Wageningen University
  • Subject(s)
  • Food Animals