Characterization of antimicrobial resistance and class 1 and 2 integrons in Salmonella enterica isolates from different sources in Portugal

Patrícia Antunes, Jorge Machado, Luísa Peixe
Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 2006, 58 (2): 297-304

OBJECTIVES: The antimicrobial resistance profiles of 1183 Salmonella isolates collected during 2002-2003 from several sources (human, food products and environment) were evaluated. The occurrence, distribution and cassette content of class 1 and 2 integrons among the sulphonamide-resistant population, as well as the role of particular clones to the spread of these genetic elements, were investigated.

METHODS: The isolates were examined for susceptibility to antimicrobial agents. The characterization of class 1 and 2 integrons was investigated using PCR, PCR-RFLP (restriction fragment length polymorphism) and sequencing in the sulphonamide-resistant isolates. Conjugation assays and clonality analysis by PFGE were performed.

RESULTS: The most common resistance phenotypes were to nalidixic acid, tetracycline, streptomycin, sulfamethoxazole and ampicillin (ranging from 31% to 17%). Resistance to sulphonamides (n=200) was associated with resistance to other antimicrobial agents, with 75% of the isolates carrying one or two class 1 integrons while only 3% simultaneously carried class 1 and 2 integrons. Integrons were observed among at least 11 serotypes (mainly Typhimurium) and in a reduced number of PFGE clones (20). Eight class 1 integron types were found, with the aadA genes (aadA1, aadA2 and aadA5) alone or downstream of a trimethoprim (dfrA1, dfrA12 and dfrA17) or a beta-lactamase resistance gene (blaoxa-30) and the blaPSE-1 gene alone. Most of the class 1 integron types were shared by several clones from the same or different serotypes obtained either from humans or food products of animal origin, especially pork products. However, some Typhimurium-specific integrons were found: aadA2 plus blaPSE-1 and blaoxa-30-aadA1.

CONCLUSIONS: Apart from the hypothetical contribution of the conjugative transfer of integrons, the incidence of Salmonella carrying these genetic units seems to rely on the ability of certain clones to spread or persist in particular animal niches. Our data suggest that food-producing animals might be simultaneously considered as a reservoir of clones and integrons carrying antibiotic resistance genes, thus making the food chain, especially pork products, a possible source of multidrug-resistant isolates in humans.

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