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Can Probiotics Improve the Environmental Microbiome and Resistome of Commercial Poultry Production?

Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute
Publication Date
  • Antibiotic
  • Growth Promoter
  • Microbiota
  • Litter
  • Probiotic
  • Prebiotic
  • Streptogramin
  • Integron


Food animal production systems have become more consolidated and integrated, producing large, concentrated animal populations and significant amounts of fecal waste. Increasing use of manure and litter as a more “natural” and affordable source of fertilizer may be contributing to contamination of fruits and vegetables with foodborne pathogens. In addition, human and animal manure have been identified as a significant source of antibiotic resistance genes thereby serving as a disseminator of resistance to soil and waterways. Therefore, identifying methods to remediate human and animal waste is critical in developing strategies to improve food safety and minimize the dissemination of antibiotic resistant bacteria. In this study, we sought to determine whether withdrawing antibiotic growth promoters or using alternatives to antibiotics would reduce the abundance of antibiotic resistance genes or prevalence of pathogens in poultry litter. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) paired with high throughput sequencing was used to evaluate the bacterial community composition of litter from broiler chickens that were treated with streptogramin growth-promoting antibiotics, probiotics, or prebiotics. The prevalence of resistance genes and pathogens was determined from sequencing results or PCR screens of litter community DNA. Streptogramin antibiotic usage did not elicit statistically significant differences in Shannon diversity indices or correlation coefficients among the flocks. However, T-RFLP revealed that there were inter-farm differences in the litter composition that was independent of antibiotic usage. The litter from all farms, regardless of antibiotic usage, contained streptogramin resistance genes (vatA, vatB, and vatE), macrolide-lincosamide-streptogramin B resistance genes (ermA and ermB), the tetracycline resistance gene tetM and class 1 integrons. There was inter-farm variability in the distribution of vatA and vatE with no statistically significant differences with regards to usage. Bacterial diversity was higher in litter when probiotics or prebiotics were administered to flocks but as the litter aged, diversity decreased. No statistically signficant differences were detected in the abundance of class 1 integrons where 3%–5% of the community was estimated to harbor a copy. Abundance of pathogenic Clostridium species increased in aging litter despite the treatment while the abundance of tetracycline-resistant coliforms was unaffected by treatment. However some treatments decreased the prevalence of Salmonella. These findings suggest that withdrawing antibiotics or administering alternatives to antibiotics can change the litter bacterial community and reduce the prevalence of some pathogenic bacteria, but may not immediately impact the prevalence of antibiotic resistance.

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