DAO 108:91-102 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02705

Survey of antibiotic-resistant bacteria isolated from bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the southeastern USA

Jill R. Stewart1,*, Forrest I. Townsend2, Suzanne M. Lane3, Elizabeth Dyar4, Aleta A. Hohn5, Teri K. Rowles6, Lydia A. Staggs2, Randall S. Wells7, Brian C. Balmer7,8, Lori H. Schwacke

1University of North Carolina, Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Environmental Sciences & Engineering, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA
2Bayside Hospital for Animals, Fort Walton Beach, Florida 32547, USA
3National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Hollings Marine Laboratory, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA
4Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, Fort Walton Beach, Florida 32547, USA
5National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA
6National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Silver Spring, MD 20910, USA
7Chicago Zoological Society, c/o Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, Florida 34236, USA
8University of North Carolina Wilmington, Department of Biology and Marine Biology, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Contamination of coastal waters can carry pathogens and contaminants that cause diseases in humans and wildlife, and these pathogens can be transported by water to areas where they are not indigenous. Marine mammals may be indicators of potential health effects from such pathogens and toxins. Here we isolated bacterial species of relevance to humans from wild bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus and assayed isolated bacteria for antibiotic resistance. Samples were collected during capture-release dolphin health assessments at multiple coastal and estuarine sites along the US mid-Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico. These samples were transported on ice and evaluated using commercial systems and aerobic culture techniques routinely employed in clinical laboratories. The most common bacteria identified were species belonging to the genus Vibrio, although Escherichia coli, Shewanella putrefaciens, and Pseudomonas fluorescens/putida were also common. Some of the bacterial species identified have been associated with human illness, including a strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) identified in 1 sample. Widespread antibiotic resistance was observed among all sites, although the percentage of resistant isolates varied across sites and across time. These data provide a baseline for future comparisons of the bacteria that colonize bottlenose dolphins in the southeastern USA.


KEY WORDS: Marine mammals · MRSA · Vibrios · Coastal waters · Zoonosis · Anthropogenic impacts · Microbiology · Screening


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Cite this article as: Stewart JR, Townsend FI, Lane SM, Dyar E and others (2014) Survey of antibiotic-resistant bacteria isolated from bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the southeastern USA. Dis Aquat Org 108:91-102. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02705

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