This study aimed to characterize antimicrobial resistance and virulence genes in multi-drug resistant enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) isolates (n= 117) collected from porcine post-weaning diarrhoea cases in Australia (1999-2005). Isolates were serotyped, antibiogram-phenotyped for 12 antimicrobial agents and genotyped by PCR for 30 plasmid-mediated antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs), 22 intestinal and 38 extraintestinal E. coli virulence genes (VGs). Nine serogroups were identified, the most prevalent being O149 (46.2%), O141 (11.2%) and Ont (31.6%). None of the isolates showed resistance to ceftiofur or enrofloxacin and 9.4% were resistant to florfenicol. No corresponding extended-spectrum/AmpC β-lactamase, fluoroquinolone or floR ARGs were detected. An antimicrobial resistance index (ARI) was calculated from the combined data with a weighting for each antimicrobial agent dependent upon its significance to human health. Serogroup O141 isolates had a significantly higher ARI due to an elevated prevalence of aminoglycoside ARGs and possession of more virulence genes (VGs), including ExPEC or EHEC adhesins (bmaE, sfa/focDE, fimH, ihA) in toxin-producing strains that lacked the normally associated F4 and F18 fimbriae. Few associations between ARGs and VGs were apparent, apart from tetC, sfa/focDE and ompT which, for a sub-set of O141 isolates, suggest possible plasmid acquisition from ExPEC. The multi-drug resistant ETEC ARG/VG profiles indicate a high probability of considerable strain and plasmid diversity, reflecting various selection pressures at the individual farm level rather than emergence and lateral spread of MDR resistant/virulent clones.
- Multi-drug resistance