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Keywords:

  • Antimicrobial drug resistance;
  • Competitive exclusion;
  • Food safety;
  • Microbial ecology;
  • Poultry

Abstract

Competitive exclusion (CE) products are anaerobic cultures of bacteria that are applied to poultry hatchlings to establish a protective enteric microbiota that excludes intestinal colonization by human food-borne pathogens. For safety of the poultry flock and human consumers, the identities of bacteria in CE products need to be known. A CE product is a culture of intestinal contents from adult chickens. It may be microbiologically defined by analysis of bacteria isolated from the culture, but many bacteria are hard to reliably isolate, identify, and characterize with conventional techniques. Sequence analysis of 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes may be more reliable than conventional techniques to identify CE bacteria. Bacteria in CE products may contain antimicrobial drug resistance and virulence mechanisms that could be transferred to the enteric bacteria of the food animal and to the human consumer. Detection methods for specific antimicrobial drug resistance and virulence genes and the integrase genes of conjugative transposons, mostly utilizing PCR technology, are being developed that can be applied to assess these risks in CE bacteria. With improvements in efficacy, bacterial identification, and detection and control of the possible risks of gene transfer, CE product technology can be made a more effective food safety tool.