Ethiopia set an ambitious masterplan to increase chicken meat and egg production from 2015 to 2020. Poultry breeding, multiplication and distribution centers in the country have received executive order to import, amplify and distribute commercial chickens to end users. The biosecurity and the pathogen fauna of the centers have not been evaluated as to whether the centers could implement the mission effectively without any risk. Thus, the aim of this study was to evaluate the biosecurity practices and the pathogen prevalence, risk factors and their antimicrobial resistance (AMR) using Salmonella as case study.
Routine farm workers of the centers were interviewed about the different management (biosecurity) practices using a checklist. Samples (n = 270) from different sources consisting of chicken's cloacal swab (n = 244), personnel hand swab (n = 9) and bedding (n = 17) were collected from three chicken multiplication centers. Standard bacteriological methods were used for the isolation of Salmonella. Disk diffusion method was used for drug sensitivity testing.
Antimicrobials were often over prescribed without confirming the cause of ill health and without susceptibility testing. The general biosecurity and flock management practices were substandard. Salmonella was isolated from 45 (16.7%) of the 270 samples. Its prevalence was significantly (p<0.05) associated with location of the multiplication center, 27% at Bonga and 10.6% at Hawassa. Sample type was also significantly (p<0.05) affected in that it was higher in the bedding (35.3%) and personnel hand swabs (33.3%) than in the chicken cloaca (14.8%), which demonstrates the poor biosecurity and personnel hygienic practices in the centers. All of the 45 isolates (100%) exhibited resistance to kanamycin and sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim, nalidixic acid (97.8%), ampicillin (97.8%), cefoxitin (97.8%), streptomycin (97.8%) tetracycline (97.8%), chloramphenicol (91.3%), ciprofloxacin (31.1%), and gentamicin (0%). Alarmingly, 42 isolates (93.4%) exhibited multidrug resistance (MDR) to ≥ 8 drugs and all 45 isolates had resistance to ≥ 3 drugs. The high rate of Salmonella isolation from (i) bedding, (ii) personnel hand swabs (iii) chickens, (iv) presence of more MDR isolates, (v) coupled with poor biosecurity practices in the centers could pose a risk for spreading of pathogens and drug resistant genes to the smallholder chicken producers and the public.
We conclude that the poultry breeding, multiplication and distribution centers in Ethiopia, as they stand currently, seem to be a source of pathogens and AMR isolates at least for Salmonella. Therefore, strict biosecurity, personnel safety, prudent drug use, regular monitoring and traceability of Salmonella serotypes or genotypes and AMR are recommended.