Many seabirds are rehabilitated annually by wildlife rehabilitation centers along the Pacific Coast, USA. Although various strains of zoonotic bacteria have been isolated from seabirds, risks to rehabilitators at these centers have not been well documented. From November 2001 through January 2003, we determined the prevalence of detectable enteric fauna by isolation and characterization of Gram-negative bacteria from cloacal swabs taken from 26 common murres (Uria aalge), 49 gulls (Larus spp.), and 14 other seabirds treated by rehabilitators in California and Washington (USA). At least 25 bacterial species were identified, including multiple strains of Escherichia coli, as well as Enterobacter cloacae, Citrobacter freundii, and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Antibiotic resistance was found in 13 of 19 bacterial isolates tested, including E. coli, K. pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumanii, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Potential transfer of these bacteria poses a risk to wildlife rehabilitators and to seabirds in these centers, as well as to free-ranging birds.
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Vol. 41 • No. 4