The role of wildlife hospitals in antimicrobial resistance dissemination
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global health priority. Increasingly, research of AMR in wildlife is revealing the unexpected presence of AMR in wild populations via transmission between humans, animals and the environment. As Australia is home to many distinct clades of animals, it is important to consider the impact of AMR on biodiversity conservation. Wildlife hospitals provide a unique opportunity to understand AMR in wildlife species that are otherwise rarely encountered. Here, a retrospective analysis of clinical bacterial isolates obtained through a zoo-based wildlife hospital revealed diverse bacterial species. Multi-drug resistant bacteria, some of relevance to public health, were isolated from free-ranging and zoo animal hosts, highlighting the importance of monitoring resistance profiles to inform antibiotic stewardship and mitigate the spread of resistant zoonotic pathogens. Next, the microbiome of two elusive monotreme species were screened for AMR markers. Significantly, a higher prevalence of an AMR determinant (class 1 integron) related to anthropogenic pollution was found in zoo and rehabilitated animals compared to their wild counterparts. This demonstrates the potential of wildlife hospitals to act as hotspots of AMR transmission to vulnerable wild animals. These findings inform best practice when managing captive breeding and rehabilitation programs at zoo-based wildlife hospitals.