Enterococcus strains in probiotics may carry antimicrobial resistance genes

Researchers at Kansas State University have discovered that Enterococcus faecium strains, isolated from commercial probiotic products for pigs and cattle, may pose risk to serve as a source of transmitting antimicrobial resistance genes to other gut bacteria. Their study is published in the Journal of Animal Science.

Raghavendra Amachawadi, assistant professor of food animal therapeutics in the Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine, said, “Our research has shown that Enterococcus faecium carries genes that confer resistance to antibiotics widely used in human medicine. Feeding such products to animals raises the possibility that the genes can be transferred to pathogenic bacteria and make them resistant to antibiotics, which can be passed on to humans.”

At this stage, Amachawadi said, this is only a theoretical possibility and there is no evidence of such transfer actually taking place in the gut and subsequent human exposure.

A whole genome sequence-based analysis was used to assess virulence potential, detect antimicrobial resistance genes, and analyse phylogenetic relationships of E. faecium strains from commercial swine and cattle probiotics.

“Because use of antibiotics creates resistance in bacteria, which is a huge public health concern, producers are seeking replacements for antibiotics,” Amachawadi said. “Most commercial probiotic products contain live bacteria that benefit the animal by improving the gut bacterial balance.”

The findings from this study suggest that, in the future, probiotic products may need to undergo a test for antimicrobial resistance genes before they are marketed for use in food animals.

The study, funded in part by a grant from the National Pork Board, included researchers from the animal sciences and industry and diagnostic medicine and pathobiology departments at Kansas State University, as well as the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition division of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Article: Shridhar, P. B., Amachawadi, R. G., Tokach, M., Patel, I., Gangiredla, J., Mammel, M., Nagaraja, T. G. (2022). Whole genome sequence analyses-based assessment of virulence potential and antimicrobial susceptibilities and resistance of Enterococcus faecium strains isolated from commercial swine and cattle probiotic products. Journal of Animal Science, 100(3), skac030, doi: 10.1093/jas/skac030

[SOURCE: Kansas State University]

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