Quinolone resistance is studied and reported increasingly in isolates from humans, food-producing animals and companion animals. Resistance can be caused by chromosomal mutations in topoisomerase genes, plasmid-mediated resistance genes, and active transport through efflux pumps. Cross sectional data on quinolone resistance mechanisms in non-pathogenic bacteria from healthy veal calves is limited. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence and characteristics of quinolone resistance mechanisms in Escherichia coli isolates from veal calves, after more than 20 years of quinolone usage in veal calves. MIC values were determined for all isolates collected as part of a national surveillance program on antimicrobial resistance in commensal bacteria in food-producing animals in The Netherlands. From the strains collected from veal calves in 2007 (n=175) all isolates with ciprofloxacin MIC ≥ 0.125 mg/L (n=25) were selected for this study, and screened for the presence of known quinolone resistance determinants. In this selection only chromosomal mutations in the topoisomerase type II and IV genes were detected. The number of mutations found per isolate correlated with an increasing ciprofloxacin MIC. No plasmid-mediated quinolone resistance genes were found. The contribution of efflux pumps varied from no contribution to a 16-fold increase in susceptibility. No correlation was found with the presence of resistance genes of other antimicrobial classes, even though all quinolone non-wild type isolates were resistant to 3 or more classes of antibiotics other than quinolones. Over twenty years of quinolone usage in veal calves in The Netherlands did not result in a widespread occurrence of plasmid-mediated quinolone resistance, limiting the transmission of quinolone resistance to clonal distribution.
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