Tetracycline resistance in enterococci and Escherichia coli isolated from fresh produce and why it matters

Zahra S. Al-Kharousi, Nejib Guizani, Abdullah M. Al-Sadi, Ismail M. Al-Bulushi


The contamination of fresh produce with antibiotic-resistant bacteria is of particular concern as they are often eaten raw and can be a source for foodborne diseases. Tetracyclines have been largely used in humans, animals and plants which might have accelerated microbial resistance to them. Enterococci and Escherichia coli can be used as indicators to monitor contamination of the fresh produce with tetracycline-resistant bacteria. The investigation related to this issue is very scarce in Oman. This study aimed at identifying tetracycline-resistant enterococci and E. coli in fresh produce at the market place. Thirty-one enterococci and ten E. coli were isolated from local (Oman) and imported fruits and vegetables (N= 105). Using the standard Kirby-Bauer disc diffusion method, resistance to tetracycline was found in 6 (19 %) enterococci, isolated from cucumber, lettuce and radish, and 5 (50 %) E. coli, obtained from cabbage, lettuce and radish. Genetic analysis revealed the presence of tetracycline resistance genes, tet(A) and tet(K), in E. coli and tet(K), tet(L) and tet(M) in enterococci, including Enterococcus sulfureus, Enterococcus mundtii, Enterococcus casseli avus and Enterococcus faecalis. The integron integrase IntI 1 gene, which is known to facilitate the dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes among bacteria, was detected in 2 isolates of E. coli. These results demonstrated the capability of fresh produce to act as a potential source for disseminating tetracycline or possibly other antibiotic-resistant bacteria through the food chain. Thus, control strategies are needed to reduce exposure of the public to such microorganisms.


Antibiotic resistance; E. coli; Enterococcus; integron; vegetables; tetracycline

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