Antibiotic resistant bacteria in dolphins could signal potential problems for seafood

Published on
September 16, 2019

Antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, which have developed resistances to antibiotics used to treat humans, are starting to show up in ocean-going mammals, according to a study conducted by the Florida Atlantic University. 

Researchers have discovered a high prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in wild dolphins, first discovered in 2009. Since then, through a study, the researchers have discovered extensive evidence that bacteria are making their way into the ocean ecosystem. 

"In 2009, we reported a high prevalence of antibiotic resistance in wild dolphins, which was unexpected," said Adam M. Schaefer, MPH, lead author and an epidemiologist at FAU's Harbor Branch, in Science Daily. "Since then, we have been tracking changes over time and have found a significant increase in antibiotic resistance in isolates from these animals. This trend mirrors reports from human health care settings. Based on our findings, it is likely that these isolates from dolphins originated from a source where antibiotics are regularly used, potentially entering the marine environment through human activities or discharges from terrestrial sources."

The new strains, according to the researchers, could pose a risk to human health. 

"Antibiotic resistance is one of the most significant risks to public health. As resistance increases, the probability of successfully treating infections caused by common pathogens decreases,” Gregory D. Bossard, co-author of the report and senior vice president at the Georgia Aquarium, said. 

The bacteria present in dolphins shows the potential for the spread of the strains, and could pose threats to other species. 

“The Health and Environmental Risk Assessment or HERA Project has helped discover that the emerging bacterial resistance to antibiotics in bottlenose dolphins is prevalent. Bottlenose dolphins are a valuable sentinel species in helping us understand how this affects human and environmental health. Through HERA we’ve been able to provide a large database of information in order to continue learning from these impressive animals,” said Bossard.

Photo by Dr. Graham Beards via Wikipedia Commons

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