Acquisition and dissemination of cephalosporin-resistant E. coli in migratory birds sampled at an Alaska landfill as inferred through genomic analysis

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Abstract

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in bacterial pathogens threatens global health, though the spread of AMR bacteria and AMR genes between humans, animals, and the environment is still largely unknown. Here, we investigated the role of wild birds in the epidemiology of AMR Escherichia coli. Using next-generation sequencing, we characterized cephalosporin-resistant E. coli cultured from sympatric gulls and bald eagles inhabiting a landfill habitat in Alaska to identify genetic determinants conferring AMR, explore potential transmission pathways of AMR bacteria and genes at this site, and investigate how their genetic diversity compares to isolates reported in other taxa. We found genetically diverse E. coli isolates with sequence types previously associated with human infections and resistance genes of clinical importance, including blaCTX-M and bla CMY. Identical resistance profiles were observed in genetically unrelated E. coli isolates from both gulls and bald eagles. Conversely, isolates with indistinguishable core-genomes were found to have different resistance profiles. Our findings support complex epidemiological interactions including bacterial strain sharing between gulls and bald eagles and horizontal gene transfer among E. coli harboured by birds. Results suggest that landfills may serve as a source for AMR acquisition and/or maintenance, including bacterial sequence types and AMR genes relevant to human health.

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Ahlstrom, C. A., Bonnedahl, J., Woksepp, H., Hernandez, J., Olsen, B., & Ramey, A. M. (2018). Acquisition and dissemination of cephalosporin-resistant E. coli in migratory birds sampled at an Alaska landfill as inferred through genomic analysis. Scientific Reports, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-25474-w

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