Occupational exposure and carriage of antimicrobial resistance genes (tetW, ermB) in pig slaughterhouse workers
OBJECTIVES: Slaughterhouse staff is occupationally exposed to antimicrobial resistant bacteria. Studies reported high antimicrobial resistance gene (ARG) abundances in slaughter pigs. This cross-sectional study investigated occupational exposure to tetracycline (tetW) and macrolide (ermB) resistance genes and assessed determinants for faecal tetW and ermB carriage among pig slaughterhouse workers. METHODS: During 2015-2016, 483 faecal samples and personal questionnaires were collected from workers in a Dutch pig abattoir, together with 60 pig faecal samples. Human dermal and respiratory exposure was assessed by examining 198 carcass, 326 gloves, and 33 air samples along the line, next to 198 packed pork chops to indicate potential consumer exposure. Samples were analyzed by qPCR (tetW, ermB). A job exposure matrix was created by calculating the percentage of tetW and ermB positive carcasses or gloves for each job position. Multiple linear regression models were used to link exposure to tetW and ermB carriage. RESULTS: Workers are exposed to tetracycline and macrolide resistance genes along the slaughter line. Tetw and ermB gradients were found for carcasses, gloves, and air filters. One packed pork chop contained tetW, ermB was non-detectable. Human faecal tetW and ermB concentrations were lower than in pig faeces. Associations were found between occupational tetW exposure and human faecal tetW carriage, yet, not after model adjustments. Sampling round, nationality, and smoking were determinants for ARG carriage. CONCLUSION: We demonstrated clear environmental tetracycline and macrolide resistance gene exposure gradients along the slaughter line. No robust link was found between ARG exposure and human faecal ARG carriage.