Gulls (Larus spp.) have frequently been reported to carry Escherichia coli exhibiting antimicrobial resistance (AMR E. coli); however, the pathways governing the acquisition and dispersal of such bacteria are not well described. We equipped 17 landfill-foraging gulls with satellite transmitters and collected gull faecal samples longitudinally from four locations on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska to assess: (a) gull attendance and transitions between sites, (b) spatiotemporal prevalence of faecally shed AMR E. coli, and (c) genomic relatedness of AMR E. coli isolates among sites. We also sampled Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) harvested as part of personal-use dipnet fisheries at two sites to assess potential contamination with AMR E. coli. Among our study sites, marked gulls most commonly occupied the lower Kenai River (61% of site locations) followed by the Soldotna landfill (11%), lower Kasilof River (5%) and upper Kenai River (<1%). Gulls primarily moved between the Soldotna landfill and the lower Kenai River (94% of transitions among sites), which were also the two locations with the highest prevalence of AMR E. coli. There was relatively high spatial and temporal variability in AMR E. coli prevalence in gull faeces and there was no evidence of contamination on salmon harvested in personal-use fisheries. We identified E. coli sequence types and AMR genes of clinical importance, with some isolates possessing genes associated with resistance to as many as eight antibiotic classes. Our findings suggest that gulls acquire AMR E. coli at habitats with anthropogenic inputs and subsequent movements may represent pathways through which AMR is dispersed.
Ahlstrom, C. A., Bonnedahl, J., Woksepp, H., Hernandez, J., Reed, J. A., Tibbitts, L., … Ramey, A. M. (2019). Satellite tracking of gulls and genomic characterization of faecal bacteria reveals environmentally mediated acquisition and dispersal of antimicrobial-resistant Escherichia coli on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Molecular Ecology, 28(10), 2531–2545. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.15101