The prevalence of antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli isolates from faecal samples from 117 poultry industry workers, 100 patients and 119 healthy chicken were compared. Resistance of E. coli chicken isolates to ampicillin, chloramphenicol, gentamicin, spectinomycin, tetracycline and trimethoprim + sulphamethoxazole (TMP + SMX) (range 57% - 99.1%) were significantly higher than those isolated from patients (range 21.9% - 71.4%) and workers (range 35% - 71.8%). However, for drugs not used in poultry, such as amoxicillin + cluvalanate (AMX + CLV), ceftazidime and nitrofurantoin, resistance rates of chicken isolates (range 0% - 2.6%) were significantly lower than those of patient isolates (range 8.7% - 30%). Resistance to spectinomycin reached 96% in E. coli chicken isolates and 71% in organisms isolated from humans. Use of this drug in Saudi Arabia is mostly limited to veterinary purposes. Multidrug resistance is alarmingly high in all groups but was highest in chicken isolates (77.4%). Serotyping of E. coli isolates showed that 27% of the organisms isolated from patients were overlapping with 10.9% of the chicken isolates, indicating the possibility of chicken being a source of the resistance pool for humans. We therefore call for the banning of antibiotics in the poultry industry as growth promoters and recommend that their use be restricted to treating infections.