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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2012, Article ID 834598, 8 pages
Research Article

Strain-Specific Transfer of Antibiotic Resistance from an Environmental Plasmid to Foodborne Pathogens

1Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (LabMET), Ghent University, Food2Know, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Gent, Belgium
2Technology and Food Science Unit, Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO), Food2Know, Brusselsesteenweg 370, 9090 Melle, Belgium
3Laboratory of Food Microbiology and Food Preservation (LFMFP), Ghent University, Food2Know, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Gent, Belgium
4Department of Biological Sciences, Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies, University of Idaho, Life Sciences South 457, Moscow, ID 83844-3051, USA
5Faculty of Applied Engineering Sciences, University College Ghent, Schoonmeersstraat 52, 9000 Gent, Belgium

Received 22 February 2012; Accepted 19 April 2012

Academic Editor: Jozef Anné

Copyright © 2012 Eva Van Meervenne et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Pathogens resistant to multiple antibiotics are rapidly emerging, entailing important consequences for human health. This study investigated if the broad-host-range multiresistance plasmid pB10, isolated from a wastewater treatment plant, harbouring amoxicillin, streptomycin, sulfonamide, and tetracycline resistance genes, was transferable to the foodborne pathogens Salmonella spp. or E. coli O157:H7 and how this transfer alters the phenotype of the recipients. The transfer ratio was determined by both plating and flow cytometry. Antibiotic resistance profiles were determined for both recipients and transconjugants using the disk diffusion method. For 14 of the 15 recipient strains, transconjugants were detected. Based on plating, transfer ratios were between 6 . 8 × 1 0 9 and 3 . 0 × 1 0 2 while using flow cytometry, transfer ratios were between < 1 . 0 × 1 0 5 and 1 . 9 × 1 0 2 . With a few exceptions, the transconjugants showed phenotypically increased resistance, indicating that most of the transferred resistance genes were expressed. In summary, we showed that an environmental plasmid can be transferred into foodborne pathogenic bacteria at high transfer ratios. However, the transfer ratio seemed to be recipient strain dependent. Moreover, the newly acquired resistance genes could turn antibiotic susceptible strains into resistant ones, paving the way to compromise human health.