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Antibiotic resistance in Africa


Kathleen Alexander and Cisco looking at wildlife sign Kathleen Alexander, at left, talks with her research team member Cisco, one of the most experienced animal trackers in the Chobe district of Botswana, as they take sample animal droppings to analyze for studies on antibiotic resistance.

Feb. 15, 2016 – Associate Professor Kathleen Alexander and former postdoctoral associate Sarah Jobbins used the common intestinal bacteria Escherichia coli to evaluate the spread of antibiotic resistance among humans, domestic animals, and wildlife in the Chobe district of northern Botswana, as reported in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases. The researchers tested for resistance to 10 antibiotics among cattle and 18 species of wildlife to explore key attributes and behaviors that may increase exposure and allow resistance to move between humans, animals, and ecosystems. Results were compared to 193 human samples from healthy and clinically ill patients at the local hospital and 12 environmental sources of human fecal waste.

Multidrug resistance was found across land types, from areas of human habitation to protected areas such as Chobe National Park. It was significantly higher in carnivore species, water-associated species, and species inhabiting urban areas. The study is one of few to examine antimicrobial resistance in such a broad range of hosts, both in absolute numbers and breadth of species, in their natural environment. “We can harness life history diversity in wildlife communities to identify where contact with resistant microbes might occur in the environment. Right now, our data suggest that surface water may be a critical exposure medium. In an environment where there are no commercial agriculture or livestock production activities, our next step is to establish why we are seeing these patterns,” Alexander said.

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