Researching antibiotic resistance with the use of a chicken gut model

PhD candidate Ingrid Cardenas Rey at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is committed to preventing antibiotic resistance in animal husbandry. In this interview she tells about her research at Wageningen Bioveterinary Research, where she uses a model of chicken gut as an alternative to animal testing.

Making a difference

‘I first got in contact with the impact of antibiotics when I did my internships in the US after my veterinary medicine studies in Colombia. I realised that the use of growth promotors in dairy production was a common practice. After my internship, I started working as a heard health manager on a large farm in Australia. There, most animals received the wrong antibiotics or the wrong doses. I encountered disease re-incidence and treatment failure. Financial decisions seemed more important than animal health and welfare. This was an eyeopener and one of my major reasons to move from veterinarian practice to research; where I thought I could have more influence on a change in the sector.’

Research on antibiotic resistance at WUR

‘Being in Australia, I met an alumnus from Wageningen University & Research who told me about the study opportunities and the high-quality education at WUR in the Netherlands.  I applied for an MSc scholarship and fortunately, I got it! So I did my Animal Sciences MSc with a focus in quantitative veterinary epidemiology and Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). During my master’s second-year, I did my internship and major thesis at Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR) within the AMR group. Together with my supervisors, I worked on plasmid-mediated fluoroquinolones resistance and a pilot-transition model to detect early changes in the Dutch monitoring of AMR in food production animals (MARAN). At the end of my MSc, I heard about the PhD position for this project, and I knew I had to apply! ’

A chicken gut model

‘In my PhD project, I will study the interplay between the chicken gut microbiome and ESBL (an enzyme, produced by certain bacteria, which makes these bacteria resistant to antibiotics) producing E. coli by using an in vitro chicken gut model. This innovative method will allow us to do ample research with controlled and monitored experimental conditions without animal ethical restrictions and with lower cost compared to animal experiments. For instance, we will test the effect of interventions (e.g. probiotics and prebiotics) in the transmission of multidrug-resistant plasmids in the chicken gut microbiota. Our research project holds interesting innovative, ethical and societal aspects; besides employing animal-friendly methodology, we also address a significant public and animal health concern as it is AMR, especially ESBL producing E. coli. During this exciting journey, I will be accompanied by my highly supportive PhD committee; Mike Brouwer, Teresita Bello Gonzalez, Kees Veldman and Arjan de Visser (WUR).’