Captive-bred wallabies may carry antibiotic resistant bacteria into wild populations

May 22, 2013
A wild brush-tailed rock-wallaby meets an animal released from a captive breeding program (on right, with radio tracking collar). Credit: Hugh McGregor

Endangered brush-tail rock wallabies raised in captive breeding programs carry antibiotic resistance genes in their gut bacteria and may be able to transmit these genes into wild populations, according to research published May 22 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Michelle Power and colleagues from Macquarie University in New South Wales, Australia.

Brush-tail rock wallabies are currently being raised in species recovery programs and restored to the wild to bolster populations of this endangered species. Here, researchers found that nearly half of fecal samples from wallabies raised in these programs contained that encode resistance to streptomycin, spectinomycin and trimethoprim. None of these genes were detected in samples from five wild populations of wallabies. The authors add, "How these genes made their way into the wallaby microbes is unknown, but it seems likely that water or feed may have acted as a conduit for bacteria carrying these genes."

Previous research shows that proximity to humans can increase animals' exposure to antibiotic resistance genes and the organisms that carry them. have been reported in the wild from chimpanzees in Uganda, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and a wide range of fish, birds and mammals. According to the researchers, their findings highlight the potential for genes and pathogens from human sources to be spread. Power says, "We found that from human pathogens have been picked up by endangered rock wallabies in a breeding program, and may spread into the wild when the wallabies are released."

Explore further: Reading a biological clock in the dark

More information: Power ML, Emery S, Gillings MR (2013) Into the Wild: Dissemination of Antibiotic Resistance Determinants via a Species Recovery Program. PLOS ONE 8(5): e63017. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063017

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Newly discovered reservoir of antibiotic resistance genes

Oct 21, 2011

Waters polluted by the ordure of pigs, poultry, or cattle represent a reservoir of antibiotic resistance genes, both known and potentially novel. These resistance genes can be spread among different bacterial species by bacteriophage, ...

Honeybees harbor antibiotic-resistance genes

Oct 30, 2012

Bacteria in the guts of honeybees are highly resistant to the antibiotic tetracycline, probably as a result of decades of preventive antibiotic use in domesticated hives. Researchers from Yale University identified eight ...

Recommended for you

Reading a biological clock in the dark

7 hours ago

Our species' waking and sleeping cycles – shaped in millions of years of evolution – have been turned upside down within a single century with the advent of electric lighting and airplanes. As a result, ...

Scientists see how plants optimize their repair

Oct 20, 2014

Researchers led by a Washington State University biologist have found the optimal mechanism by which plants heal the botanical equivalent of a bad sunburn. Their work, published in the Proceedings of the Na ...

User comments : 0