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Campylobacter resistance in humans linked to antibiotic use in animals

The Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy reports on findings suggesting that veterinary use of antibiotics may well be responsible for antibiotic resistance of Campylobacter in humans.

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Campylobacter species are a frequent cause of diarrhea in man, originating mostly from poultry.

It has been suggested that the veterinary use of antibiotics is largely responsible for resistance in human isolates, particularly to quinolones.

A study conducted in Belgium has therefore attempted to shed light on this hypothesis, by examining Campylobacter isolates from healthy poultry and pigs.

During a 6-month period, from June to December 1998, 677 Campylobacter isolates were obtained, with samples taken at Belgian slaughterhouses.

The research group, led by Dr Herman Goossens, from the Department of Medical Microbiology, at the University Hospital of Antwerp in Antwerp, Belgium, performed biochemical tests, multiplex PCR and SDS-PAGE of whole-cell proteins to identify the species of Campylobacter present in the isolates.

In addition, the in vitro susceptibility of the isolates to six antimicrobial drugs was determined by the agar dilution method.

Veterinary use of antibiotics: A cause of Campylobacter resistance in humans?
Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy

Campylobacter jejuni was found more often in poultry than Campylobacter coli (78% versus 21%).

In pigs this situation was reversed, however, with only 6% of isolates containing C. jejuni compared to C. coli.

Resistance to erythromycin was significantly higher in C. coli, particularly in C. coli isolated from pigs. In fact, over 67% of isolates of this species, obtained from pigs, were found to be resistant to the macrolide antibiotic erythromycin.

The research group also noted alarmingly high rates of resistance to ciprofloxacin. Resistance to this antibiotic was highest in C. coli from broiler chickens.

They suggest that this finding may well indicate that antibiotic resistance of Campylobacter in humans could derive from animals.

J Antimicrob Chemother 2001; 48: 235-240
24 September 2001

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