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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


3.3 HEALTH SCIENCES, Public and environmental health, 4.3 VETERINARY SCIENCE


Extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC) possess the ability to cause extraintestinal infections such as urinary tract infections, neonatal meningitis and sepsis. While information is readily available describing pathogenic E. coli populations in food-producing animals, studies in companion/sports animals such as horses are limited. In addition, many antimicrobial agents used in the treatment of equine infections are also utilised in human medicine, potentially contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistance determinants among pathogenic strains. The aim of this study was to phenotypically and genotypically characterise the multidrug resistance and virulence associated with 83 equine E. coli isolates recovered from foals with diarrhoeal disease. Serotyping was performed by both PCR and sequencing. Antibiotic resistance was assessed by disc diffusion. Phylogenetic groups, virulence genes, antibiotic resistance genes and integrons were determined by PCR. Thirty-nine (46%) of the isolates were classified as ExPEC and hence considered to be potentially pathogenic to humans and animals. Identified serogroups O1, O19a, O40, O101 and O153 are among previously reported human clinical ExPEC isolates. Over a quarter of the E. coli were assigned to pathogenic phylogroups B2 (6%) and D (23%). Class 1 and class 2 integrons were detected in 85% of E. coli, revealing their potential to transfer MDR to other pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria. With 65% of potentially pathogenic isolates harbouring one or more TEM, SHV and CTX-M-2 group β-lactamases, in addition to the high levels of resistance to fluoroquinolones observed, our findings signal the need for increased attention to companion/sport animal reservoirs as public health threats.