Nav: Home

Wildlife in Catalonia carry bacteria resistant to antimicrobials used in human health

November 12, 2019

Antibiotic resistance has become a global health problem due to decades of misuse of these drugs in both, human and veterinary medicine. Nowadays the prevalence of multi-drug resistant bacteria in humans, domestic animals and livestock has increased, hindering the finding of the correct treatment for infectious diseases that before were not a problem. This is especially true in hospital settings, where antimicrobial pressure is extremely high and patients are immunocompromised being more prone to acquire nosocomial infections. In addition, antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been described in urban environments and ecosystems subjected to low human pressure. Previous studies have confirmed the presence of resistant bacteria or resistant genes circulating in urban wastewater and river waters. Consequently, wildlife might be indirectly exposed to these resistant traits.

The present study carried out by researchers from the Center of Research in Animal Health (IRTA-CReSA), the Department of Anatomy and Animal Health of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), and the Torreferrussa Wildlife Center from the Government of Catalonia's Ministry for Territory and Sustainability demonstrates that the enteric bacteria of wildlife origin in Catalonia exhibits a high prevalence and diversity of antibiotic resistance genes. The study, published in the PLoS ONE journal, emphasizes that these antibiotics are classified by the World Health Organization as critically important for human health.

To perform the study, scientists have analyzed enteric bacteria of 307 animals from 67 different species located in regions of Catalonia with high density of urban areas and farming land. Some of the animal species analyzed were birds (mainly birds of prey, owls, passerines and gulls), mammals (hedgehogs, mustelids, wild boars and roe deer) and a small amount of tortoises. According to the results of the analysis, hedgehogs were the animals with highest percentage of resistant bacteria, followed by birds of prey such as goshawks and common owls.

From the hospital to the intestines of wildlife

Enteric bacteria identified in the gastrointestinal track of these animals belonged to several genus of Enterobacteriaceae commonly found in animals and humans, as well as in the environment. The most abundant species were Escherichia coli, followed by Klebsiella pneumoniae, Citrobacter freundii, Enterobacter cloacae, Proteus mirabilis, Providencia spp and Serratia marescens. Additionally, results revealed that all these bacteria contained resistant genes to different antibiotics such as cephalosporin, carbapenems and fluoroquinolones. "These antibiotics are frequently used in hospital settings. The finding of carbapenem resistance is really worrying, since they are last-line antibiotics for the treatment of severe infections in hospital settings. Additionally, the presence of resistance to tetracycline, sulfonamides and aminoglycosides was very common. These antimicrobials are commonly used in livestock production," explains Dr. Lourdes Migura, researcher at IRTA-CReSA working in antimicrobial resistance.

Risk for public health and animal health

Detecting all these resistance genes in the intestinal microbiota of wild animals suggest that human activities have a negative impact in the environment on a microbial scale through spillage of wastewater from cities, hospitals and farming activities. When wildlife gets in contact with waste or wastewater, they can become a reservoir of resistance genes. Consequently, these animals can spread resistant bacteria through the environment and can become a source of infection for people who are in direct contact with them. "This is accentuated in animals such as hedgehogs that live in rural and urban areas that may be contaminated with this sewage and slurry," explains Dr. Laila Darwich, researcher at IRTA-CReSA and professor of Infectious Diseases of the Department of Animal Health and Anatomy at the UAB.

Migratory birds, bacterial dispersants

The study also revealed that wild birds such as hawks, owls and the smallest of common forest birds also carried bacteria such as E. coli, K. pneumoniae, Proteus spp. and Providencia spp. resistant to cephalosporins. "In this case, it is essential to take into account the role of each species in ecosystems to understand the problem. Birds of prey, like hawks and owls, occupy the highest site of the trophic network. As a result, it is easier for them to acquire resistant bacteria from their prey, which are usually small mammals, small birds, reptiles or even farm animals," explains Dr. Rafa Molina, veterinarian of the Torreferrussa Wildlife Center. Furthermore, scientists point out that migratory birds play a key role in the dispersion of resistant bacteria through food and droppings, as they are exposed throughout their lives to different habitats and environments.

Scientists warn that there is a need for more studies to implement urgent measures of control to mitigate the impact of human activities on wildlife. "It is necessary to act from different fields emphasizing the concept of One Health, in which human and veterinary medicine and environmental experts work together to solve global health problems such as this one", the authors conclude.

Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

Related Antibiotics Articles:

Antibiotics: City dwellers and children take the most
City dwellers take more antibiotics than people in rural areas; children and the elderly use them more often than middle-aged people; the use of antibiotics decreases as education increases, but only in rich countries: These are three of the more striking trends identified by researchers of the NRW Forschungskolleg ''One Health and Urban Transformation'' at the University of Bonn.
Metals could be the link to new antibiotics
Compounds containing metals could hold the key to the next generation of antibiotics to combat the growing threat of global antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotics from the sea
The team led by Prof. Christian Jogler of Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, has succeeded in cultivating several dozen marine bacteria in the laboratory -- bacteria that had previously been paid little attention.
Antibiotics not necessary for most toothaches, according to new ADA guideline
The American Dental Association (ADA) announced today a new guideline indicating that in most cases, antibiotics are not recommended for toothaches.
Antibiotics with novel mechanism of action discovered
Many life-threatening bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to existing antibiotics.
Resistance can spread even without the use of antibiotics
Antibiotic resistance does not spread only where and when antibiotics are used in large quantities, ETH researchers conclude from laboratory experiments.
Selective antibiotics following nature's example
Chemists from Konstanz develop selective agents to combat infectious diseases -- based on the structures of natural products
Antibiotics can inhibit skin lymphoma
New research from the LEO Foundation Skin Immunology Research Center at the University of Copenhagen shows, surprisingly, that antibiotics inhibit cancer in the skin in patients with rare type of lymphoma.
Antibiotics may treat endometriosis
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that treating mice with an antibiotic reduces the size of lesions caused by endometriosis.
How antibiotics help spread resistance
Bacteria can become insensitive to antibiotics by picking up resistance genes from the environment.
More Antibiotics News and Antibiotics Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at