Virulence-associated genes and antimicrobial resistance among avian pathogenic Escherichia coli from colibacillosis affected broilers in Pakistan

  • Mariya Azam
  • Mashkoor MohsinEmail author
  • Sajjad-ur-Rahman
  • Muhammad Kashif Saleemi
Regular Articles


Avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC) causes colibacillosis that leads to high morbidity and mortality among poultry birds. To date, there is a lack of knowledge about virulence-associated genes (VAGs) and multidrug resistance of APEC isolates from Pakistan. In this study, we determined the VAGs and antibiotic resistance profiles of APEC isolates recovered from colibacillosis affected broilers in Faisalabad region of Pakistan. A total of 84 diseased and dead birds from different local broilers farms were collected and examined for the gross lesions of colibacillosis by conducting postmortem examination. Of these, APEC isolates were recovered from 75 (89.2%) birds. Antibiotic susceptibility tests against 11 antimicrobial agents showed the highest resistance against ampicillin (98.6%) followed by tetracycline (97.3%) and ciprofloxacin (72%). The presence of 11 virulence-associated genes (VAGs) was detected by multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Of the 75 APEC, 32 (42.6%) harbored > 5 VAGs. Most commonly found genes were increased serum survival (iss; 84%), iron transport (iutA; 74.6%), and colicin V (ColV; 60%). Twenty-two isolates (29.3%) were found to possess a combination of VAGs; iss, tsh, iroN, and iutA, in addition to other VAGs. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on the detection of virulence-associated genes and multidrug resistance among APEC isolates in Pakistan. In the future, the strains with the predominant set of VAGs can be used for colibacillosis diagnosis and as a potential vaccine candidate.


Poultry Colibacillosis Avian pathogenic E. coli Virulence genes Antimicrobial resistance 



This work was supported by the fund of the International Foundation for Science, Sweden (IFS B/5793-1).

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

Ethical approval was obtained from the Institute of Biosafety Committee (IBC), University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan. The animal samples were processed according to animal research guidelines approved by research ethics committee of Department of Pathology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan. All authors have seen and approved the content and have contributed considerably to the work.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of MicrobiologyUniversity of AgricultureFaisalabadPakistan
  2. 2.Department of PathologyUniversity of AgricultureFaisalabadPakistan

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