Occurrence and prevalence of antimicrobial resistance markers in the intestinal flora of wild and captive raptors

Hamilton, Jacob (2018) Occurrence and prevalence of antimicrobial resistance markers in the intestinal flora of wild and captive raptors. (MSc(R) thesis), Kingston University, .


Antibiotic resistance (AMR) is a growing problem, which is predicted to cause 50 million deaths per year by 2050. AMR can be considered a 'One Health' issue, as antibiotic resistant bacteria can be transferred from human activity into wild animals and the environment via a process called antibiotic spillover, where antibiotics or antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs) enter the natural environment and vice-versa. Despite this, little research has been performed on the bacteria carried by wildlife with respect to AMR, particularly in the United Kingdom. Raptors, which are at the top of their food chain, can act as a sentinel species. If these birds are found to carry ARG containing bacteria in their intestine or faecal matter, it is likely to be present elsewhere in their environment. This study sampled the faecal matter from 160 unique raptors between September 2017 and July 2018 to identify the frequency of five medically-relevant bacteria of interest; Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp,. Staphylococcus spp., Klebsiella spp. and Enterococcus faecalis. A total of 16 (29.6%) of captive and 33 (32.4%) wild raptors contained one of the bacteria of interest. Intestinal samples from 12 deceased raptors were also sampled and were found to contain 4 bacteria of interest (33.3%). Antibiotic susceptibility testing was performed on the bacteria isolated, with 59.6% found in the faecal matter of wild raptors and 31.6% isolated from captive raptor faecal matter possessing resistance to one or more classes of antibiotic. 21.3% of bacteria from wild and 15.8% of bacteria from captive raptor faecal matter displayed multi-drug resistance. No bacteria of interest demonstrated extensive drug-resistant or pandrug-resistance, as defied by the joint guidelines from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Typing was performed on a selection of Salmonella spp. and E.coli isolates using pulsed field gel electrophoresis, revealing that there was no genetic relatedness between the bacteria isolated. The current study concludes that the potential for antibiotic spillover in the flight radius of the birds is limited, but further work is needed to fully understand the risk to human health present in the environment due to the nature of the population studied.

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