Association of antimicrobial usage with faecal abundance of aph(3')-III, ermB, sul2 and tetW resistance genes in veal calves in three European countries
BACKGROUND: High antimicrobial use (AMU) and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in veal calves remain a source of concern. As part of the EFFORT project, the association between AMU and the abundance of faecal antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs) in veal calves in three European countries was determined. METHODS: In 2015, faecal samples of veal calves close to slaughter were collected from farms located in France, Germany and the Netherlands (20 farms in France, 20 farms in the Netherlands and 21 farms in Germany; 25 calves per farm). Standardized questionnaires were used to record AMU and farm characteristics. In total, 405 faecal samples were selected for DNA extraction and quantitative polymerase chain reaction to quantify the abundance (16S normalized concentration) of four ARGs [aph(3')-III, ermB, sul2 and tetW] encoding for resistance to frequently used antimicrobials in veal calves. Multiple linear mixed models with random effects for country and farm were used to relate ARGs to AMU and farm characteristics. RESULTS: A significant positive association was found between the use of trimethoprim/sulfonamides and the concentration of sul2 in faeces from veal calves. A higher weight of calves on arrival at the farm was negatively associated with aph(3')-III and ermB. Lower concentrations of aph(3')-III were found at farms with non-commercial animals present. Furthermore, farms using only water for the cleaning of stables had a significantly lower abundance of faecal ermB and tetW compared with other farms. CONCLUSION: A positive association was found between the use of trimethoprim/sulfonamides and the abundance of sul2 in faeces in veal calves. Additionally, other relevant risk factors associated with ARGs in veal calves were identified, such as weight on arrival at the farm and cleaning practices.