Front Vet Sci. 2021 Mar 3;8:583759. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2021.583759. eCollection 2021.
Marine mammals are frequently considered good sentinels for human, animal and environmental health due to their long lifespan, coastal habitat, and characteristics as top chain predators. Using a One Health approach, marine mammals can provide information that helps to enhance the understanding of the health of the marine and coastal environment. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the quintessential One Health problem that poses a well-recognised threat to human, animal, and ecosystem health worldwide. Treated and untreated sewage, hospital waste and agricultural run-off are often responsible for the spread of AMR in marine and freshwater ecosystems. Rescued seals (n = 25) were used as sentinels to investigate the levels of AMR in the Irish coastal ecosystem. Faecal swabs were collected from these animals and bacterial isolates (E. coli and cefotaxime-resistant non-E. coli) from each swab were selected for further investigation. E. coli isolates were characterised in terms of phylogenetic group typing, AMR, and virulence factors. All E. coli isolates investigated in this study (n = 39) were ampicillin resistant while 26 (66.6%) were multi-drug resistant (MDR). Resistance genes bla OXA-1 and bla TEM-1 were detected in 16/39 and 6/39 isolates, respectively. Additionally, virulence factors associated with adhesion (sfa, papA, and papC) and siderophores (fyuA and iutA) were identified. An additional 19 faecal cefotaxime-resistant non-E. coli isolates were investigated for the presence of β-lactamase encoding genes. These isolates were identified as presumptive Leclercia, Pantoea and Enterobacter, however, none were positive for the presence of the genes investigated. To the authors knowledge this is the first study reporting the detection of bla OXA-1 and bla TEM-1 in phocid faecal E. coli in Europe. These results highlight the importance of marine mammals as sentinels for the presence and spread of AMR in the marine and coastal environment.