Survey of antibiotic-resistant bacteria isolated from bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the southeastern USA

Dis Aquat Organ. 2014 Feb 19;108(2):91-102. doi: 10.3354/dao02705.


Contamination of coastal waters can carry pathogens and contaminants that cause diseases in humans and wildlife, and these pathogens can be transported by water to areas where they are not indigenous. Marine mammals may be indicators of potential health effects from such pathogens and toxins. Here we isolated bacterial species of relevance to humans from wild bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus and assayed isolated bacteria for antibiotic resistance. Samples were collected during capture-release dolphin health assessments at multiple coastal and estuarine sites along the US mid-Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico. These samples were transported on ice and evaluated using commercial systems and aerobic culture techniques routinely employed in clinical laboratories. The most common bacteria identified were species belonging to the genus Vibrio, although Escherichia coli, Shewanella putrefaciens, and Pseudomonas fluorescens/putida were also common. Some of the bacterial species identified have been associated with human illness, including a strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) identified in 1 sample. Widespread antibiotic resistance was observed among all sites, although the percentage of resistant isolates varied across sites and across time. These data provide a baseline for future comparisons of the bacteria that colonize bottlenose dolphins in the southeastern USA.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bottle-Nosed Dolphin / microbiology*
  • Carrier State*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Southeastern United States / epidemiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents