Carriage of antibiotic resistant bacteria in endangered and declining Australian pinniped pups

Mariel Fulham, Fiona McDougall, Michelle Power, Rebecca R. McIntosh, Rachael Gray*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)
    22 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    The rapid emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major concern for wildlife and ecosystem health globally. Genetic determinants of AMR have become indicators of anthropogenic pollution due to their greater association with humans and rarer presence in environments less affected by humans. The objective of this study was to determine the distribution and frequency of the class 1 integron, a genetic determinant of AMR, in both the faecal microbiome and in Escherichia coli isolated from neonates of three pinniped species. Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea), Australian fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) and long-nosed fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) pups from eight breeding colonies along the Southern Australian coast were sampled between 2016–2019. DNA from faecal samples (n = 309) and from E. coli (n = 795) isolated from 884 faecal samples were analysed for class 1 integrons using PCRs targeting the conserved integrase gene (intI) and the gene cassette array. Class 1 integrons were detected in A. p. doriferus and N. cinerea pups sampled at seven of the eight breeding colonies investigated in 4.85% of faecal samples (n = 15) and 4.52% of E. coli isolates (n = 36). Integrons were not detected in any A. forsteri samples. DNA sequencing of the class 1 integron gene cassette array identified diverse genes conferring resistance to four antibiotic classes. The relationship between class 1 integron carriage and the concentration of five trace elements and heavy metals was also investigated, finding no significant association. The results of this study add to the growing evidence of the extent to which antimicrobial resistant bacteria are polluting the marine environment. As AMR determinants are frequently associated with bacterial pathogens, their occurrence suggests that these pinniped species are vulnerable to potential health risks. The implications for individual and population health as a consequence of AMR carriage is a critical component of ongoing health investigations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0258978
    Pages (from-to)1-15
    Number of pages15
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Volume17
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2022

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    Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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