Occurrence of antimicrobial-resistant Escherichia coli in marine mammals of the North and Baltic Seas : sentinels for human health
Antimicrobial resistance is a global health threat that involves complex, opaque transmission processes in the environment. In particular, wildlife appears to function as a reservoir and vector for antimicrobial-resistant bacteria as well as resistance genes. In the present study, the occurrence of antimicrobial-resistant Escherichia coli was determined in marine mammals and various fish species of the North and Baltic Seas. Rectal or faecal swabs were collected from 66 live-caught or stranded marine mammals and 40 fish specimens. The antimicrobial resistance phenotypes and genotypes of isolated E. coli were determined using disk diffusion tests and PCR assays. Furthermore, isolates were assigned to the four major phylogenetic groups of E. coli. Additionally, post mortem examinations were performed on 41 of the sampled marine mammals. The investigations revealed resistant E. coli in 39.4% of the marine mammal samples, while no resistant isolates were obtained from any of the fish samples. The obtained isolates most frequently exhibited resistance against aminoglycosides, followed by β-lactams. Of the isolates, 37.2% showed multidrug resistance. Harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) mainly carried E. coli isolates belonging to the phylogenetic group B1, while seal isolates were most frequently assigned to group B2. Regarding antimicrobial resistance, no significant differences were seen between the two sampling areas or different health parameters, but multidrug-resistant isolates were more frequent in harbour porpoises than in the sampled seals. The presented results provide information on the distribution of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in the North and Baltic Seas, and highlight the role of these resident marine mammal species as sentinels from a One Health perspective.