Quantitative dynamics of Salmonella and E. coli in feces of feedlot cattle treated with ceftiofur and chlortetracycline

Antibiotic use in beef cattle is a risk factor for the expansion of antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella populations. However, actual changes in the quantity of Salmonella in cattle feces following antibiotic use have not been investigated. Previously, we observed an overall reduction in Salmonella prevalence in cattle feces associated with both ceftiofur crystalline-free acid (CCFA) and chlortetracycline (CTC) use; however, during the same time frame the prevalence of multidrug-resistant Salmonella increased. The purpose of this analysis was to quantify the dynamics of Salmonella using colony counting (via a spiral-plating method) and hydrolysis probe-based qPCR (TaqMan® qPCR). Additionally, we quantified antibiotic-resistant Salmonella by plating to agar containing antibiotics at Clinical & Laboratory Standards Institute breakpoint concentrations. Cattle were randomly assigned to 4 treatment groups across 16 pens in 2 replicates consisting of 88 cattle each. Fecal samples from Days 0, 4, 8, 14, 20, and 26 were subjected to quantification assays. Duplicate qPCR assays targeting the Salmonella invA gene were performed on total community DNA for 1,040 samples. Diluted fecal samples were spiral plated on plain Brilliant Green Agar (BGA) and BGA with ceftriaxone (4 μg/ml) or tetracycline (16 μg/ml). For comparison purposes, indicator non-type-specific (NTS) E. coli were also quantified by direct spiral plating. Quantity of NTS E. coli and Salmonella significantly decreased immediately following CCFA treatment. CTC treatment further decreased the quantity of Salmonella but not NTS E. coli. Effects of antibiotics on the imputed log10 quantity of Salmonella were analyzed via a multi-level mixed linear regression model. The invA gene copies decreased with CCFA treatment by approximately 2 log10 gene copies/g feces and remained low following additional CTC treatment. The quantities of tetracycline or ceftriaxone-resistant Salmonella were approximately 4 log10 CFU/g feces; however, most of the samples were under the quantification limit. The results of this study demonstrate that antibiotic use decreases the overall quantity of Salmonella in cattle feces in the short term; however, the overall quantities of antimicrobial-resistant NTS E. coli and Salmonella tend to remain at a constant level throughout.