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PLoS One. 2008 Jan 16;3(1):e1444. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001444.

Antibiotics threaten wildlife: circulating quinolone residues and disease in Avian scavengers.

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  • 1Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo de Ciencias Naturales, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Madrid, Spain.


Antibiotic residues that may be present in carcasses of medicated livestock could pass to and greatly reduce scavenger wildlife populations. We surveyed residues of the quinolones enrofloxacin and its metabolite ciprofloxacin and other antibiotics (amoxicillin and oxytetracycline) in nestling griffon Gyps fulvus, cinereous Aegypius monachus and Egyptian Neophron percnopterus vultures in central Spain. We found high concentrations of antibiotics in the plasma of many nestling cinereous (57%) and Egyptian (40%) vultures. Enrofloxacin and ciprofloxacin were also found in liver samples of all dead cinereous vultures. This is the first report of antibiotic residues in wildlife. We also provide evidence of a direct association between antibiotic residues, primarily quinolones, and severe disease due to bacterial and fungal pathogens. Our results indicate that, by damaging the liver and kidney and through the acquisition and proliferation of pathogens associated with the depletion of lymphoid organs, continuous exposure to antibiotics could increase mortality rates, at least in cinereous vultures. If antibiotics ingested with livestock carrion are clearly implicated in the decline of the vultures in central Spain then it should be considered a primary concern for conservation of their populations.

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