Ready-to-eat (RTE) food, which does not need thermal processing before consumption, could be a vehicle for the spread of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms. As part of general microbiological safety checks, staphylococci are routinely enumerated in these kinds of foods. However, the presence of antibiotic-resistant staphylococci in RTE food is not routinely investigated, and data are only available from a small number of studies. The present study evaluated the pheno- and genotypical antimicrobial resistance profile of Staphylococcus spp. isolated from 858 RTE foods (cheeses, cured meats, sausages, smoked fishes, salads). Of 113 strains isolated, S. aureus was the most prevalent species, followed by S. xylosus, S. saprophyticus, and S. epidermidis. More than half (54.9%) of the isolates were resistant to at least one class of tested antibiotic; of these, 35.4% of the strains were classified as multidrug resistant. Most of the isolates were resistant to cefoxitin (49.6%), followed by clindamycin (39.3%), tigecycline (27.4%), quinupristin-dalfopristin (22.2%), rifampin (20.5%), tetracycline (17.9%), and erythromycin (8.5%). All methicillin-resistant staphylococci harbored the mecA gene. Among the isolates resistant to at least one antibiotic, 38 harbored tetracycline resistance determinant tet(M), 24 harbored tet(L), and 9 harbored tet(K). Of the isolates positive for tet(M) genes, 34.2% were positive for the Tn916-Tn1545–like integrase family gene. Our results indicated that retail RTE food could be considered an important route for the transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria harboring multiple antibiotic resistance genes.

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