Escherichia coli population structure and antibiotic resistance at a buffalo/cattle interface in southern Africa

Mercat, M., author
Clermont, O., author
Massot, M., author
Ruppe, E., author
de Garine-Wichatitsky, M., author
Miguel, E, author
Valls Fox, H., author
Cornelis, D., author
Andremont, A., author
Denamur, E., author
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Human/livestock/wildlife interfaces create favorable conditions for microorganisms spill over between hosts. In landscapes where human expansion encroaches into natural ecosystems, the resulting epidemics are a major cause of human/wildlife conflicts that challenge the sustainable coexistence between Mankind and Nature. Escherichia coli is a well-known bacteria, ubiquitous and harboring antibiotic resistance. It provides a good model to understand the diffusion of antibiotic resistance between hosts and the environment. This is also a good candidate to explore the mechanisms of microorganism transmission between hosts and could be used to track pathogen transmission. We used phenotypic and molecular characterization techniques to describe antibiotic resistance and the diversity of E.coli populations found in sympatric African buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer) and cattle populations at the Hwange National Park interface, Zimbabwe. Although the structure of E. coli populations was similar between cattle and buffalo populations, we found a gradient of antibiotic resistance, highest in cattle, intermediate in buffalo that were in contact with cattle, and lowest in isolated buffalo. The types and molecular characterization of antibiotic resistance further confirm the observed gradient and suggest that antibiotic resistance is spreading from human to animal populations. We demonstrate that there is a risk of antibiotic resistance diffusion between wildlife, livestock and human populations, with unknown consequences on the health of host populations. These results also confirm that E. coli could be used as a tool to identify transmission pathways in multi-host systems, in an attempt to characterize pathogen spread and risks of emergence.
Presented at the 9th international wildlife ranching symposium: wildlife - the key to prosperity for rural communities, held on 12-16 September 2016 at Hotel Safari & the Safari Court, Windhoek, Namibia in conjuction with the IUCN 2nd African Buffalo Symposium.
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