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: Newly discovered reservoir of antibiotic resistance genes

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

Related Stories

Newly discovered reservoir of antibiotic resistance genes

October 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

October 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

The high cost of communication among social bees

May 26, 2017

(Phys.org)—Eusocial insects are predominantly dependent on chemosensory communication to coordinate social organization and define group membership. As the social complexity of a species increases, individual members require ...

Knowledge gap on the origin of sex

May 26, 2017

There are significant gaps in our knowledge on the evolution of sex, according to a research review on sex chromosomes from Lund University in Sweden. Even after more than a century of study, researchers do not know enough ...

Why communication is vital—even among plants and funghi

May 26, 2017

Plant scientists at the University of Cambridge have found a plant protein indispensable for communication early in the formation of symbiosis - the mutually beneficial relationship between plants and fungi. Symbiosis significantly ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.