Animals Bred In Zoos And Reintroduced To The Wild Bring Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria With Them, Research Finds

Animals raised in captive breeding programs, and then released into the wild, may transmit antibiotic resistant bacteria to the wild populations, new research on wallabies has found.

Image Credit: Rock Wallaby via Wikimedia Commons
Image Credit: Rock Wallaby via Wikimedia Commons

Specifically, the research found that “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.”

Currently, captive brush-tail rock wallabies are being raised in notable numbers as part of species recovery programs, before being released into the wild, in an effort to bolster wild populations of the endangered animal. In the new research it was found that almost “half of fecal samples from wallabies raised in these programs contained bacterial genes that encode resistance to streptomycin, spectinomycin and trimethoprim. None of these genes were detected in samples from five wild populations of wallabies.” The authors note: “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.”

It has been noted by previous research that the closer an animal population’s proximity to human development, the more that they are exposed to antibiotic resistance genes and the organisms that harbor them. “Antibiotic resistant bacteria 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.”

Researcher Michelle Power, from Macquarie University in New South Wales, Australia, says, “We found that antibiotic resistance genes 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.”

The new research was recently published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

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