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Background: Plasmid-mediated resistance to the colistin in poultry is considered as an emerging problem worldwide. While poultry constitutes the major industry in Nepal, there is a paucity of evidence on colistin resistance in Escherichia coli isolates causing natural infections in poultry. This study aimed to explore the prevalence of plasmid-mediated colistin resistance gene, mcr-1 in E. coli isolated from liver samples of dead poultry suspected of E. coli infections. Methods: A total of two hundred and seventy liver samples (227 broilers and 43 layers) from dead poultry suspected of colibacillosis were collected from post-mortem in the Central Veterinary Laboratory (CVL), Kathmandu, between 1 February and 31 July 2019. The specimens were processed to isolate and identify E. coli; an antimicrobial susceptibility test (AST) using disk diffusion method was performed with 12 different antibiotics: Amikacin (30 µg), ampicillin (10 µg), ciprofloxacin (5 µg), chloramphenicol (30 µg), cefoxitin (30 µg), ceftazidime (30 µg), ceftriaxone (30 µg), cotrimoxazole (25 µg), gentamicin (10 µg), imipenem (10 µg), levofloxacin (5 µg) and tetracycline (30 µg). Colistin resistance was determined by agar dilution method and colistin-resistant strains were further screened for plasmid-mediated mcr-1 gene, using conventional polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Results: Out of 270 liver samples, 53.3% (144/270) showed growth of E. coli. The highest number (54%; 109/202) of E. coli isolates was obtained in the liver samples from poultry birds (of both types) aged less than forty days. In AST, 95.1% (137/144) and 82.6% (119/144) of E. coli isolates were resistant against tetracycline and ciprofloxacin, respectively, while 13.2% (19/144) and 25.7% (37/144) isolates were resistant to cefoxitin and imipenem, respectively. In the same assay, 76.4% (110/144) E. coli isolates were multi-drug resistant (MDR). The phenotypic prevalence of colistin resistance was 28.5% (41/144). In the PCR assay, 43.9% (18/41) of colistin-resistant isolates were screened positive for plasmid-mediated mcr-1. Conclusion: The high prevalence of mcr-1 in colistin-resistant E. coli isolates in our study is a cause of concern for the probable coming emergence of colistin resistance in human pathogens, due to horizontal transfer of resistant genes from poultry to human isolates.

Original publication




Journal article


Animals : an open access journal from MDPI

Publication Date





Central Department of Microbiology, Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, Kathmandu 44618, Nepal.