The first ever study of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in free-living American bison finds resistance rates, while relatively low, are still higher than expected. The researchers from Kansas State University report their findings in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Currently, over 50% of antibiotic use in the United States is attributed to the animal industry. As antibiotic resistance continues to rise researchers have extensively studied the link between humans and farm animals, however little is known about the spread of antibiotic resistance in wild animal populations.
Enterococci are one of the most common organisms associated with nosocomial infections worldwide and are also considered a reservoir for acquisition and distribution of antibiotic resistant genes. In the study enterococci isolates were collected from an American bison (Bison bison) population on a native tall-grass prairie preserve in Kansas. Bison showed resistance to tetracycline and erythromycin at rates of 8% and 4% which while higher than expected, still relatively low when compared to resistance rates of 42.9% and 12.7% in domestic cattle.
"This is the first study of antibiotic resistance in enterococci associated with American bison," say the researchers. "The results provide us with an opportunity to gain insight into the origin of antibiotic resistance and the flow of genetic elements between environments."
Journal reference: J.F. Anderson, T.D. Parrish, M. Akhtar, L. Zurek, H. Hirt. 2008. Antibiotic resistance of enterococci in American bison (Bison bison) from a nature preserve compared to that of enterococci in pastured cattle. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 74. 6: 1726-1730.
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