Antibiotic Resistance and Virulence Gene Patterns Associated with Avian Pathogenic Escherichia coli from Broiler Chickens in Qatar
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Introduction: Avian Pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC) is the contributing agent behind the avian infectious disease colibacillosis, which causes substantial fatalities in poultry industries that significantly impact the economy and food safety. Several virulence genes have been shown to be concomitant with the extra-intestinal survival of APEC. This study investigates the antibiotic resistance patterns and APEC?associated virulence genes content in Escherichia coli (E. coli) isolated from non?healthy and healthy broiler chickens from a commercial poultry farm in Qatar. Material and Methods: 158 E. coli strains were isolated from 47 chickens from five different organs (air sac, cloacal, kidney, liver, and trachea). Genomic DNA was extracted from E. coli using the QIAamp Pathogen Mini Kit. Multiplex PCR was executed to detect tsh, iucD, ompT, hlyF, iroN, iss, vat, cvi/cva genes associated with PPEC. Antibiotic susceptibility testing was performed using the standard Kirby-Bauer disk and E-test. Amplified virulence genes detected were sequenced and analyzed. Graph Pad version 8 and PAST software version 4.03 were used for statistical and clustering analysis. The chi-square test was performed on all data to compare the antibiotic resistance and virulence gene patterns between non-healthy and healthy chicken samples Results: 65% of the isolated bacteria were APEC strains containing five or more virulence genes, and 34% were non?pathogenic E. coli (NPEC) strains. The genes ompT, hlyF, iroN, tsh, vat, iss, cvi/cva, and iucD were significantly prevalent in all APEC strains. E. coli isolates showed 96% resistance to at least one of the 18 antibiotics, with high resistance to ampicillin, cephalothin, ciprofloxacin, tetracycline, and fosfomycin. Conclusions: Our findings indicate high antibiotic resistance prevalence in non-healthy and healthy chicken carcasses. Such resistant E. coli can spread to humans. Hence, special programs are required to monitor the use of antibiotics in chicken production in Qatar.