Spread of antibiotic-resistant plasmids from chicken to chicken and from chicken to man

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THE natural ecology of Escherichia coli and its infectious plasmids is not understood, although there is suggestive evidence that animals may serve as reservoirs for E. coli found in humans1,2. Investigation in this area becomes additionally important in view of the practice of introducing plasmids with pieces of foreign DNA into E. coli3,4. During an examination of the effects of antibiotic-supplemented animal feed on flora of farm animals and human personnel (ref. 5 and S.B.L., G.B.F. and A.B.M., unpublished), a study was initiated to determine if R plasmids and their E. coli hosts were naturally transferred among chickens and from chickens to human handlers. Our results illustrate the spread of antibiotic-resistant organisms from chicken to chicken and from chicken to man.

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