ABSTRACT

Nontyphoidal Salmonella strains are among the major foodborne pathogens with emerging multidrug-resistant phenotypes. In this study, antimicrobial susceptibility testing of a collection of Salmonella isolates (n = 54) recovered from poultry and bivalve molluscs was performed. The study also investigated profiling of virulence and resistance genes as well as phylogenetic relationships through pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and enterobacterial repetitive intergenic consensus (ERIC)–PCR fingerprinting. Results revealed the presence of multiple virulence genes among Salmonella isolates. Salmonella intestinal infection A (siiA), Salmonella outer protein (sopB and sopE), putative 4-hydroxybutyrate coenzyme A transferase (cat2), Salmonella atypical fimbria C (safC), and Salmonella Enteritidis fimbria B (sefB) were present in most (83.32 to 100%) of the isolates, whereas the remaining tested genes (Salmonella plasmid virulence [spvC and spvB]), and the sopE gene, were exclusively detected within the serotype Enteritidis. The highest resistance rates were observed for oxacillin (94.4%), ampicillin (37%), and nalidixic acid (27.7%), followed by cefotaxime and amoxicillin–clavulanic acid (14.8%), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (9.3%), and ciprofloxacin (5.5%). The results indicate that the Salmonella Enteritidis serotype possessed the widest range of virulence determinants and increasing levels of resistance. Such high-risk clones should be particularly controlled in Tunisia. Overall, increased resistance and virulence confer a selective advantage for the evolution of these bacteria and represent an alarming problem for global public health. The genetic study via PFGE and ERIC-PCR showed the high diversity of the clonal origins of these bacteria and the sources of contamination and revealed the great capacity of Salmonella to diversify within food-producing animals.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Salmonella exhibited important content of virulence and antimicrobial resistance.

  • Phylogenetic study showed a remarkably high heterogeneity.

  • Clonal origins and sources of contamination are highly diverse.

  • Salmonella has a great capacity to diversify within food-producing animals.

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