Purpose: The objective of this study is to determine the prevalence of antibiotic resistant (AR) enteric E. coli isolated from fecal samples of immigrant food handlers in Qatar. There are currently limited information on antibiotic resistance profiles in commensal enteric organisms from non-clinical human populations in Qatar.
Methods: Food handlers arriving to Qatar for work go through a mandatory medical screening at the Medical Commission. The screening include submitting a fecal sample for pathogen monitoring. A randomly selected subset of the fecal samples (n=178) were used for E. coli isolation and antibiotic susceptibility testing using E-test StripTM (BioMerieux, France) against 9 antibiotics (Ampicillin, trimethoprim, sulfamethoxazole, chloramphenicol, ceftriaxone, gentamicin, tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, and amoxicillin-clavulanic acid).
Results: Nearly 29% of the fecal samples (n=178) were positive for E. coli. Thus far, 36 E. coli isolates have been characterized for antibiotic susceptibility. About 53% of these isolates were resistant to at least one antibiotic; whereas 33.3% of the isolates were multi-drug resistant (those resistant to three or more antibiotics). The highest resistance prevalence was to trimethoprim (39%), followed by ampicillin (36.1%), and sulfamethoxazole and tetracycline (33.3%, each). Resistance to ciprofloxacin (16.7%) and ceftriaxone (5.6%) were observed.
Significance: It appears that the study subjects (food handlers that are, in general, healthy individuals), carry an array of multi-drug resistant enteric E. coli bacteria, which can pose a significant public health risk to the general population in Qatar. This risk magnitude is dependent on AR E. coli dissemination through food contaminated due to inappropriate food-handling.