Antimicrobial usage in aquaculture selects for antimicrobial-resistant microorganisms in the marine environment. The relevance of this selection to terrestrial animal and human health is unclear. Quinolone-resistance genes qnrA, qnrB, and qnrS were chromosomally located in four randomly chosen quinolone-resistant marine bacteria isolated from an aquacultural area with heavy quinolone usage. In quinolone-resistant uropathogenic clinical isolates of Escherichia coli from a coastal area bordering the same aquacultural region, qnrA was chromosomally located in two E. coli isolates, while qnrB and qnrS were located in small molecular weight plasmids in two other E. coli isolates. Three quinolone-resistant marine bacteria and three quinolone-resistant E. coli contained class 1 integrons but without physical association with PMQR genes. In both marine bacteria and uropathogenic E. coli, class 1 integrons had similar co-linear structures, identical gene cassettes, and similarities in their flanking regions. In a Marinobacter sp. marine isolate and in one E. coli clinical isolate, sequences immediately upstream of the qnrS gene were homologous to comparable sequences of numerous plasmid-located qnrS genes while downstream sequences were different. The observed commonality of quinolone resistance genes and integrons suggests that aquacultural use of antimicrobials might facilitate horizontal gene transfer between bacteria in diverse ecological locations.
Keywords: Aquaculture; Class 1 integrons; Marine bacteria; PMQR genes; Quinolone resistance; Uropathogenic clinical isolates.