Surveillance for Antibiotic-Resistant E. coli in the Salish Sea Ecosystem

Antibiotics (Basel). 2021 Oct 2;10(10):1201. doi: 10.3390/antibiotics10101201.


E. coli was isolated from the Salish Sea (Puget Sound) ecosystem, including samples of marine and fresh water, and wildlife dependent on this environment. E. coli isolates were assessed for phenotypic and genotypic resistance to antibiotics. A total of 305 E. coli isolates was characterized from samples collected from: marine water obtained in four quadrants of the Salish Sea; select locations near beaches; fresh water from streams near marine beaches; and fecal samples from harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), river otters (Lontra canadensis), and English sole (Parophrys vetulus). Isolates were evaluated using antimicrobial susceptibility typing, whole-genome sequencing, fumC, and multilocus sequence typing. Resistance and virulence genes were identified from sequence data. Of the 305 isolates from Salish Sea samples, 20 (6.6%) of the E. coli were intermediate, and 31 (10.2%) were resistant to ≥1 class of antibiotics, with 26.9% of nonsusceptible (resistant and intermediate resistant) E. coli isolates from marine mammals and 70% from river otters. The proportion of nonsusceptible isolates from animals was significantly higher than samples taken from marine water (p < 0.0001). A total of 196 unique STs was identified including 37 extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC)-associated STs [ST10, ST38, ST58, ST69, ST73, ST117, ST131, and ST405]. The study suggests that animals may be potential sentinels for antibiotic-resistant and ExPEC E. coli in the Salish Sea ecosystem.

Keywords: E. coli; antibiotic resistance; environment; marine mammals; river otters.