Presence and antimicrobial resistance profiles of Escherichia coli, Enterococcusspp. and Salmonellasp. in 12 species of Australian shorebirds and terns

Zoonoses Public Health. 2022 Sep;69(6):615-624. doi: 10.1111/zph.12950. Epub 2022 Apr 22.


Antibiotic resistance is an ongoing threat to both human and animal health. Migratory birds are a potential vector for the spread of novel pathogens and antibiotic resistance genes. To date, there has been no comprehensive study investigating the presence of antibiotic resistance (AMR) in the bacteria of Australian shorebirds or terns. In the current study, 1022 individual birds representing 12 species were sampled across three states of Australia (Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia) and tested for the presence of phenotypically resistant strains of three bacteria with potential to be zoonotic pathogens; Escherichia coli, Enterococcusspp., and Salmonellasp. In total, 206 E. coli, 266 Enterococcusspp., and 20 Salmonellasp. isolates were recovered, with AMR detected in 42% of E. coli, 85% of Enterococcusspp., and 10% of Salmonellasp. Phenotypic resistance was commonly detected to erythromycin (79% of Enterococcusspp.), ciprofloxacin (31% of Enterococcusspp.) and streptomycin (21% of E. coli). Resident birds were more likely to carry AMR bacteria than migratory birds (p ≤ .001). Bacteria isolated from shorebirds and terns are commonly resistant to at least one antibiotic, suggesting that wild bird populations serve as a potential reservoir and vector for AMR bacteria. However, globally emerging phenotypes of multidrug-resistant bacteria were not detected in Australian shorebirds. This study provides baseline data of the carriage of AMR bacteria in Australian shorebirds and terns.

Keywords: antibiotic resistance; enteric bacteria; migratory shorebirds; wildlife.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Birds / microbiology
  • Charadriiformes*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics
  • Escherichia coli
  • Escherichia coli Infections* / epidemiology
  • Escherichia coli Infections* / microbiology
  • Escherichia coli Infections* / veterinary
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Humans


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents