Prevalence, risk factors and genetic traits of Salmonella Infantis in Dutch broiler flocks

Mughini-Gras, Lapo; Hoek, Angela H.A.M. van; Cuperus, Tryntsje; Dam-Deisz, Cecile; Overbeek, Wendy van; Beld, Maaike van den; Wit, Ben; Rapallini, Michel; Wullings, Bart; Franz, Eelco; Giessen, Joke van der; Dierikx, Cindy; Opsteegh, Marieke


Salmonella Infantis is a poultry-adapted Salmonella enterica serovar that is increasingly reported in broilers and is also regularly identified among human salmonellosis cases. An emerging S. Infantis mega-plasmid (pESI), carrying fitness, virulence and antimicrobial resistance genes, is also increasingly found. We investigated the prevalence, genetic characteristics and risk factors for (pESI-carrying) S. Infantis in broilers. Faecal samples from 379 broiler flocks (in 198 farms with ≥3000 birds) in the Netherlands were tested. A questionnaire about farm characteristics was also administered. Sampling was performed in July 2018-May 2019, three weeks before slaughter. Fourteen flocks (in 10 farms) were S. Infantis-positive, resulting in a 3.7 % flock-level and 5.1 % farm-level prevalence. Based on multi-locus sequence typing (MLST), all isolates belonged to sequence type 32. All but one isolate carried a pESI-like mega-plasmid. Core-genome MLST showed considerable heterogeneity among the isolates, even within the same farm, with a few small clusters detected. The typical pESI-borne multi-resistance pattern to aminoglycosides, sulphonamide and tetracycline (93 %), as well as trimethoprim (71 %), was found. Additionally, resistance to (fluoro)quinolones based on gyrA gene mutations was detected. S. Infantis was found more often in flocks using salinomycin as coccidiostat, where flock thinning was applied or litter quality was poor, whereas employing external cleaning companies, wheat in feed, and vaccination against infectious bronchitis, were protective. Suggestive evidence for vertical transmission from hatcheries was found. A heterogeneous (pESI-carrying) S. Infantis population has established itself in Dutch broiler flocks, calling for further monitoring of its spread and a comprehensive appraisal of control options.