Antibiotic-resistant organisms cultured from Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) inhabiting estuarine waters of Charleston, SC and Indian River Lagoon, FL

Ecohealth. 2009 Mar;6(1):33-41. doi: 10.1007/s10393-009-0221-5. Epub 2009 May 5.


Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from estuarine waters of Indian River Lagoon, FL (IRL) and Charleston, SC (CHS) were cultured to screen for microorganism colonization and to assess antibiotic sensitivity. Swabs (n = 909) were collected from the blowhole, gastric fluid, and feces of 171 individual dolphins The most frequently cultured organisms were Plesiomonas shigelloides (n = 161), Aeromonas hydrophila (n = 144), Escherichia coli (n = 85), and Pseudomonas fluorescens (n = 82). In descending frequency, organisms demonstrated resistance to erythromycin, ampicillin, and cephalothin. Human and animal pathogens resistant to antibiotics used in human and veterinary medicine were cultured. Escherichia coli (E. coli) more often was resistant in IRL dolphins. Three cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were found at CHS. Emergence of antibiotic resistance is not confined to humans. Bottlenose dolphins may serve as sentinels for transfer of resistance from humans and animals or indicate that antibiotics are reaching the marine environment and causing resistance to emerge through selective pressure and genetic adaptation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bottle-Nosed Dolphin / microbiology*
  • Disk Diffusion Antimicrobial Tests
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Florida
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Rivers / microbiology*
  • South Carolina