Implications of Escherichia coli community diversity in free-ranging Australian pinniped pups

Mariel Fulham, Bridget Webster, Michelle Power, Rachael Gray*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    1 Citation (Scopus)
    57 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    Escherichia coli is a widely studied bacterium, commonly used as an indicator of faecal contamination. Investigations into the structure and diversity of E. coli in free-ranging wildlife species has been limited. The objective of this study was to characterise intra-individual and inter-species E. coli phylotype and B2 sub-type diversity in free-ranging Australian pinniped pups, to determine whether a single E. coli colony is representative of the phylotype and B2 sub-type diversity in these hosts. Faecal samples were collected from free-ranging Australian fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus), Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea) and long-nosed fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) pups from three breeding colonies between 2018 and 2021. Faecal swabs from thirty randomly selected pups (n = 10 from each species) were cultured and ten E. coli colonies were selected from each culture based on morphology and separation between colonies on agar plates. Molecular screening techniques were utilised to assign isolates to phylotypes and B2 sub-types. There was no significant difference (p > 0.05) in either intra-individual or inter-species E. coli phylotype and B2 sub-type diversity. The B2 phylotype was the most dominant, with 78% of isolates (n = 234) assigned to this phylotype. Host factors (species, weight [kg] and standard length [cm]) did not significantly affect phylotype diversity. 

    The absence of intra-individual and inter-species differences in E. coli diversity at a phylotype level suggests that a single E. coli colony could be used as an indicator of overall diversity of E. coli at a phylotype level in A. p. doriferus, N. cinerea and A. forsteri pups. These findings can be used to simplify and improve the efficiency of sampling protocols for ongoing monitoring of human-associated E. coli phylotypes in free-ranging pinniped populations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number105351
    Pages (from-to)1-9
    Number of pages9
    JournalInfection, Genetics and Evolution
    Volume104
    Early online date17 Aug 2022
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

    Bibliographical note

    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.

    Keywords

    • Escherichia coli
    • Pinnipeds
    • Community diversity
    • Wildlife

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