U.S – In a study published in the journal Microbial Genomics, researchers have uncovered a concerning trend related to antibiotic resistance genes in Campylobacter jejuni, a prevalent foodborne pathogen.

The research, led by Shannon Manning, a research foundation Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Michigan State University, highlights the persistence of antibiotic resistance genes, specifically those conferring resistance to the beta-lactam class of antibiotics, even after the initial infection has been treated.

Campylobacter jejuni is responsible for approximately 1.5 million illnesses in the United States annually, with contaminated chicken meat being a primary source of infection.

The study found that more than half of the 214 C. jejuni samples isolated from patients in Michigan contained antibiotic resistance genes against at least one antibiotic.

What’s particularly alarming is that these resistance genes can linger long after the initial infection, enabling other microbes to acquire these genes, leading to further antibiotic resistance.

The research emphasizes the ease with which antibiotic resistance genes are transferred between bacteria, especially those commonly found in poultry and their environment.

Natural selection, coupled with antibiotic use, exacerbates the likelihood of gene transfer, making Campylobacter control even more challenging.

The study underscores the critical importance of judicious antibiotic use in poultry farms and the urgent need to limit or restrict the use of medically important antibiotics for both human and animal health.

“Although we do not have any Campylobacter recovered from poultry available to examine, we are in the process of comparing these genomes to those from wild birds and cattle in Michigan. The goal of these analyses is to identify those genomic traits or genotypes that are specific to the strains causing human infections,” Manning said.

Interestingly, the resistance displayed by Campylobacter is not an isolated case of the United States. Last year, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) released a report that indicated that antibiotic resistance in Campylobacter bacteria is still on the rise.

According to the report, Campylobacteriosis was the most reported zoonosis in the EU in 2020 and the most frequently reported cause of foodborne illness.

However, Campylobacter bacteria from humans and poultry showed very high resistance to ciprofloxacin, a fluoroquinolone antibiotic, that is commonly used to treat some types of bacterial human infection.

Increasing trends of resistance against the fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics was observed in humans and broilers for Campylobacter jejuni.

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