Newly published research by investigators at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria revealed that many samples of chicken meat on retail sale contained phages (viruses that infect bacteria) capable of transferring antibiotic resistance genes between bacterial cells.
The research team analysed 50 samples of chicken meat purchased from supermarkets and butchers in Austria by rinsing the meat and using a standard ISO method to isolate coliphage from the rinsate.
The results showed that nearly half of the samples contained phages able to transduce one or more of the five antimicrobial resistances in the study. These included resistance to tetracycline, ampicillin, kanamycin, chloramphenicol and extended-spectrum betalactams.
The researchers conclude that the real number of phages able to transduce resistance must be much higher since the study was restricted to five antibiotics and five phages picked at random from each sample.
Lead researcher Friederike Hilbert DVM, says that transduction of antibiotic resistance may be much more common than previously thought and could be an important mechanism for its spread in food production facilities. “The presence of phages that transfer antibiotic resistance could explain the failures to combat antimicrobial resistance.” she commented.
A report of the study will be published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology and can be found in full ahead of print here.