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Study Finds Antibiotic-Resistance Genes on Turkey Farms

06 March 2013

GERMANY - Genes for resistance to the antibiotic, vancomycin, were found in Enterococcus bacteria in around one-quarter of the turkeys originating from 55 per cent of the flocks tested in south-west Germany, and in 70 per cent of the dust samples from those farms, according to a new study.

In a study published in Poultry Science recently, Reinhard Sting of the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Authority in Stuttgart and co-authors there and at the Poultry Heath Service of Baden-Württemberg and the Free University of Berlin investigated the prevalence of vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) in turkeys in the south-west of Germany.

For this purpose, 200 cloacal swab samples and five environmental dust samples (tested as a pooled sample) of each of the 20 flocks (10 female and 10 male flocks) included in this study were examined.

VRE was isolated by means of a procedure combining bacterial cultivation in an enrichment broth and on a selective solid media. Enterococci were identified biochemically and subsequently tested on the presence of the vancomycin resistance genes vanA, vanB (B1/B2/B3) and vanC (C1/C2/C3) using real-time PCR assays.

In 54 (27 per cent) turkeys originating from 11 (55 per cent) flocks and in 14 (70 per cent) of the dust samples, exclusively vanA and vanC1 genes were detected.

Of the turkeys examined, 46 were colonised with VRE bearing the resistance gene vanC1 and eight with vanA, originating from nine and two flocks, respectively.

None of the birds carried vanB-, vanC2- or vanC3-positive VRE.

The results obtained from the birds are largely confirmed by the dust samples originating from four vanA- and 10 vanC1-positive flocks. However, one flock housing animals colonised with vanC1-positive VRE could not be confirmed by the dust samples that revealed vanA-bearing VRE. However, in one case vanA and in three cases vanC1 carrying VRE were detected in dust samples of the turkey houses but not in the turkeys of the associated flock.

In five flocks, the turkeys as well as the dust samples were free of VRE.


Sting R., A. Richter, C. Popp and H.M. Hafez. 2013. Occurrence of vancomycin-resistant enterococci in turkey flocks. Poult. Sci. 92(2):346-351. doi: 10.3382/ps.2012-02652

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