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Emerging antimicrobial resistance in the poultry production - implications for human health?

Project number: NFR/233632

During the last decade Escherichia coli producing extended spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL) enzymes has emerged in production animal populations. Poultry seems to be associated with the highest frequencies of ESBL-producing bacteria. The presence of ESBLs in poultry has now become a global problem. In Norway, the frequency of antimicrobial resistance in production animals is regarded as favorable compared to the international situation (annual NORM/NORM-VET reports, www.vetinst.no). However, recent surveys have documented a considerable prevalence of ESBL-positive E. coli in broilers and in Norwegian produced chicken meat available at retail. The ESBL feature was mediated by an AmpC-type of ESBL-gene, namely blaCMY-2, and the gene was plasmid located. Later it has shown that the ESBL-producing bacteria were introduced by imported breeding animals to the poultry production.

The ESBL situation in Norwegian poultry production was regarded as worrying, and thus the Knowledge building project for the business sector. Emerging antibacterial resistance in the poultry production: Epidemiology and preventive measures against ESBL producing E. coli was started in 2013. The study mainly focuses on ESBL presence at different stages of the production chain, to identify critical steps which need special hygiene measures and identification of successful clones and/or resistance plasmids that are widespread in the bacterial population. There is reason to believe that the consumers are exposed to ESBL positive bacteria via poultry products, but the implications on human health are not known. This project will approach this by performing screening studies of the fecal flora of healthy individuals in Norway, in order to uncover if humans are able to acquire resistant bacteria from a poultry reservoir. Furthermore, the project will investigate if the ESBL producing bacteria associated with poultry contribute to increased ESBL prevalence among bacteria causing infections in humans. This knowledge is necessary to give recommendations regarding the risk of acquisition of resistant bacteria through the food chain which again will contribute to a stabilization of the favorable resistance situation in Norway.

The Norwegian Veterinary Institute is partner in this project that is managed by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. In the project, NVI is participating in the planning of the study, in the molecular characterization of bacterial isolates with special emphasis on plasmids, as well as analysis of results and contribution to the scientific writing.


Project leader from the Norwegian Institute og Public Health
Ulf Dahle

Project leader from the Norwegian Veterinary Institute
Marianne Sunde (i permisjon per dags dato)

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) – project leader Ulf Dahle
Reference Centre for Detection of Antimicrobial Resistance (K-res), Department of Microbiology and Infection control, University Hospital for North Norway
Antibiotic Centre for Primary Care (ASP), Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo
Several Clinical microbiology laboratories in Norway
Statens serum institute, National Center for Antimicrobials and Infection Control Denmark

Duration: 01.01.2014 - 31.12.2015