The use of antimicrobial growth promoters in chicken farming has been commonly associated with high levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in humans. Most of this work, however, has been focused on intensive large-scale operations. Intensive small-scale farming that regularly uses antibiotics is increasing worldwide and has different exposure pathways compared with large-scale farming, most notably the spatial connection between chickens and households. In these communities, free-ranging backyard chickens (not fed antibiotics) can roam freely, whereas broiler chickens (fed antibiotics) are reared in the same husbandry environment but confined to coops. We conducted an observational field study to better understand the spatial distribution of AMR in communities that conduct small-scale farming in northwestern Ecuador. We analyzed phenotypic resistance of Escherichia coli sampled from humans and backyard chickens to 12 antibiotics in relation to the distance to the nearest small-scale farming operation within their community. We did not find a statistically significant relationship between the distance of a household to small-scale farming and antibiotic-resistant E. coli isolated from chicken or human samples. To help explain this result, we monitored the movement of backyard chickens and found they were on average 17 m (min-max: 0-59 m) from their household at any given time. These backyard chickens on average ranged further than the average distance from any study household to its closest neighbor. This level of connectivity provides a viable mechanism for the spread of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and genes throughout the community.
- Infectious Diseases