After humans, antibiotic resistance rises in dolphins

Around 90% of samples taken from dolphins in Florida were found to be resistant to at least one type of pathogen, according to new study

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 16 September 2019
A bottlenose dolphin. Photo: Getty Images

Antibiotic or Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is spreading in not just among humans but also dolphins, a new study has found.

The study, conducted over a 12-year period, found disease-causing organisms or pathogens among most of the samples of bodily fluids and solids taken from bottlenose dolphins in an area of Florida.

Samples were taken from blowholes, gastric fluid and faeces of the animals in the Indian River Lagoon in Florida between 2003 and 2015.

Of the 733 samples taken from 171 dolphins, 88 per cent contained a pathogen resistant to at least one antibiotic, the study found.

Most pathogens (91.6 per cent) were found to be resistant to erythromycin, commonly used to treat chest infections, acne and sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia and syphilis.

Another 77.3 per cent were resistant to ampicillin and 61.7 per cent to cephalothin.

It was also found that resistance to antibiotic ciprofloxacin among E coli pathogens doubled over the period studied.

The Indian River Lagoon has a large human population living along its shores and scientists suspect the antibiotic-resistant bacteria must have come into it through a human source including septic tanks, runoff from the land or freshwater discharge from canals.

AMR is one of the top health challenges of today. This is because many common bacterial infections are developing resistance to the drugs once used to treat them, and new antibiotics aren't being developed fast enough to combat the problem.

At least two million Americans get an AMR infection in the United States (US) each year, and at least 23,000 people die as a result, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study was conducted by researchers at Florida Atlantic University, Georgia Aquarium, the Medical University of South Carolina and Colorado State University. It was published in the journal Aquatic Mammals.

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