Drug Resistance From Aquaculture?

Maryn McKenna

In the midst of the giant Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak last week — now up to 107 cases in 31 states, and triggering a recall of 36 million pounds of ground turkey — it was easy to miss that a second and even more troubling strain of resistant Salmonella is on the move. As I wrote last week, that strain is called Salmonella Kentucky ST198, it is much more drug-resistant than the U.S. Heidelberg outbreak, and it has been spreading since 2002 from Egypt and north Africa through Europe, and has now been identified in the United States. Its primary vector appears to be chicken meat.

There is an interesting and troubling aspect to the spreading Kentucky strain that there wasn’t time to talk about last week, in the midst of the Heidelberg news. It’s this: The authors suspect that this enhanced resistance — to Cipro, and thus the class called fluoroquinolones that are very important in treating Salmonella — may have come into African chickens via drug use in aquaculture.

The authors are especially concerned about farms that practice what’s called “integrated aquaculture,” in which chicken litter and manure are used to fertilize ponds in which fish are grown, and waste from the ponds is harvested and used as poultry feed.

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