High rates of multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli in great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) of the German Baltic and North Sea coasts : indication of environmental contamination and a potential public health risk
Antimicrobial-resistant bacteria pose a serious global health risk for humans and animals, while the role of wildlife in the dynamic transmission processes of antimicrobial resistance in environmental settings is still unclear. This study determines the occurrence of antimicrobial-resistant Escherichia coli in the free-living great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) of the North and Baltic Sea coasts of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. For this, resistant E.coli were isolated from cloacal or faecal swabs and their antimicrobial resistance pheno- and genotypes were investigated using disk diffusion tests and PCR assays. The isolates were further assigned to the four major phylogenetic groups, and their affiliation to avian pathogenic E. coli (APEC) was tested. Resistant E. coli were isolated from 66.7% of the 33 samples, and 48.9% of all the resistant isolates showed a multidrug resistance profile. No spatial differences were seen between the different sampling locations with regard to the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance or multidrug resistance. Most commonly, resistance percentages occurred against streptomycin, followed by tetracycline and sulfonamides. More than half of the isolates belonged to the phylogenetic group B1. Of all the isolates, 24.4% were classified as APEC isolates, of which almost 82% were identified as multidrug-resistant. These results add information on the dispersal of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in wild birds in Germany, thereby allowing conclusions on the degree of environmental contamination and potential public health concerns.