Occurrence of High-Risk Clonal Lineages ST58, ST69, ST224, and ST410 among Extended-Spectrum β-Lactamase-Producing Escherichia coli Isolated from Healthy Free-Range Chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) in a Rural Region in Tunisia Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Antimicrobial-resistant Escherichia coli isolates have emerged in various ecologic compartments and evolved to spread globally. We sought to (1.) investigate the occurrence of ESBL-producing E. coli (ESBL-Ec) in feces from free-range chickens in a rural region and (2.) characterize the genetic background of antimicrobial resistance and the genetic relatedness of collected isolates. Ninety-five feces swabs from free-range chickens associated with two households (House 1/House 2) in a rural region in northern Tunisia were collected. Samples were screened to recover ESBL-Ec, and collected isolates were characterized for phenotype/genotype of antimicrobial resistance, integrons, and molecular typing (pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multilocus sequence typing (MLST)). Overall, 47 ESBL-Ec were identified, with the following genes detected: 35 blaCTX-M-1, 5 blaCTX-M-55, 5 blaCTX-M-15, 1 blaSHV-2, and 1 blaSHV-12. Resistance to fluoroquinolones, tetracycline, sulfonamides, and colistin was encoded by aac(6′)-Ib-cr (n = 21), qnrB (n = 1), and qnrS (n = 2); tetA (n = 17)/tetB (n = 26); sul1 (n = 29)/sul2 (n = 18); and mcr-2 (n = 2) genes, respectively. PFGE and MLST identified genetic homogeneity of isolates in House 1; however, isolates from House 2 were heterogeneous. Notably, among nine identified sequence types, ST58, ST69, ST224, and ST410 belong to pandemic high-risk clonal lineages associated with extrapathogenic E. coli. Minor clones belonging to ST410 and ST471 were shared by chickens from both households. The virulence genes fyuA, fimH, papGIII, and iutA were detected in 35, 47, 17, and 23 isolates, respectively. Findings indicate a high occurrence of ESBL-Ec in free-range chickens and highlight the occurrence of pandemic zoonotic clones.


  • Benlabidi, Saloua
  • Raddaoui, Anis
  • Lengliz, Sana
  • Cheriet, Sarah
  • Hynds, Paul
  • Achour, Wafa
  • Ghrairi, Taoufik
  • Abbassi, Mohamed

publication date

  • April 6, 2023

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