Background: Extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing enterobacteria pose a major hazard to public health. Due to the possibility of genetic transfer, ESBL genes might spread to pathogenic enterobacterial strains. Thus, information on possible genetic transfer between enterobacteria is of high interest. It was therefore the aim of this in vitro study to screen the capacity of a wide range of Enterobacteriaceae for differences in conjugation at different time points with five ESBL-producing Escherichia coli strains.
Results: Conjugation frequencies for five potential E. coli donor strains producing the enzymes CTX-M-1, CTX-M-15, SHV-12, TEM-1, TEM-52 and CMY-2, and six potential recipient strains commonly detected in the gastrointestinal tract of poultry (E. coli, Serratia marcescens subsp. marcescens, Enterobacter cloacae, Salmonella (S.) enterica serovar Typhimurium and Proteus mirabilis) were obtained. Different combinations of donor and recipient strains were co-incubated for between 0 and 22 h and spread on selective agar. Conjugation frequencies were calculated as transconjugants per donor. Some donor and recipient strain combinations did not perform plasmid transfer within 22 h. Hence, the recipient Proteus mirabilis did not accept plasmids from any of the given donors and the E. coli ESBL10716 donor was unable to transfer its plasmid to any recipient. Enterobacter cloacae only accepted the plasmids from the donors E. coli ESBL10708 and E. coli ESBL10716 while E. coli ESBL10708 did not transfer its plasmid to Serratia marcescens subsp. marcescens. E. coli IMT11716 on the other hand did not perform conjugation with the donor E. coli ESBL10689. The remaining mating pairs differed in conjugation frequency, ranging from 10− 5 to 10− 9 transconjugants/donor. The earliest conjugation events were detected after 4 h. However, some mating pairs turned positive only after 22 h of coincubation.
Conclusion: A suitable mating pair for future in vivo studies to combat transfer of antibiotic resistance to pathogenic bacteria in broiler chicken was determined. The results of this study also suggest that the kinetic of conjugation differs between mating pairs and is independent of species origin. This should be considered when performing conjugation experiments.