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J Antimicrob Chemother. 2019 Sep 1;74(9):2566-2574. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkz242.

Resistance to critically important antimicrobials in Australian silver gulls (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae) and evidence of anthropogenic origins.

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School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Roseworthy, South Australia, Australia.
Antimicrobial Resistance and Infectious Diseases Laboratory, College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia, Australia.
Department of Bacteria, Parasites and Fungi, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark.
NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar, New South Wales, Australia.
School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.



Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to critically important antimicrobials (CIAs) amongst Gram-negative bacteria can feasibly be transferred amongst wildlife, humans and domestic animals. This study investigated the ecology, epidemiology and origins of CIA-resistant Escherichia coli carried by Australian silver gulls (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae), a gregarious avian wildlife species that is a common inhabitant of coastal areas with high levels of human contact.


Sampling locations were widely dispersed around the perimeter of the Australian continent, with sites separated by up to 3500 km. WGS was used to study the diversity and molecular characteristics of resistant isolates to ascertain their epidemiological origin.


Investigation of 562 faecal samples revealed widespread occurrence of extended-spectrum cephalosporin-resistant (21.7%) and fluoroquinolone-resistant (23.8%) E. coli. Genome sequencing revealed that CIA-resistant E. coli isolates (n = 284) from gulls predominantly belonged to human-associated extra-intestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC) clones, including ST131 (17%), ST10 (8%), ST1193 (6%), ST69 (5%) and ST38 (4%). Genomic analysis revealed that gulls carry pandemic ExPEC-ST131 clades (O25:H4 H30-R and H30-Rx) and globally emerging fluoroquinolone-resistant ST1193 identified among humans worldwide. Comparative analysis revealed that ST131 and ST1193 isolates from gulls overlapped extensively with human clinical isolates from Australia and overseas. The present study also detected single isolates of carbapenem-resistant E. coli (ST410-blaOXA-48) and colistin-resistant E. coli (ST345-mcr-1).


The carriage of diverse CIA-resistant E. coli clones that strongly resemble pathogenic clones from humans suggests that gulls can act as ecological sponges indiscriminately accumulating and disseminating CIA-resistant bacteria over vast distances.


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