Thermotolerant fecal indicator organisms carried by migratory waterfowl may serve as reservoirs of antibiotic resistance. To determine the extent to which such antibiotic resistance markers were present in migratory Canada geese (Branta canadensis) on the Maryland Eastern Shore, we isolated Enterococcus spp. and Escherichia coli from fresh feces and examined the antibiotic resistance profiles of these bacteria. Samples were obtained in October 2002, January 2003, and March 2003. Thermotolerant E. coli counts ranged from 0 to 1.0×107 colony forming units (CFU)/0.1g (g−1) wet weight of feces, whereas Enterococcus spp. counts ranged from 1.0×102−1.0×107 CFU g−1 wet weight of feces. Primary isolates of each indicator organism were tested against a panel of 10 antibiotics. Greater than 95% of E. coli isolates were resistant to penicillin G, ampicillin, cephalothin, and sulfathiazole; no E. coli were resistant to ciprofloxacin. Enterococcal isolates showed highest resistance to cephalothin, streptomycin, and sulfathiazole; no enterococci were resistant to chloramphenicol. The tetracyclines, streptomycin, and gentamycin provided the greatest discrimination among E. coli isolates; chlortetracycline, cephalothin, and gentamycin resistance patterns provided the greatest discrimination between enterococcal strains. Multiple antibiotic resistance (MAR) profiles were calculated: fall (E. coli = 0.499; enterococci = 0.234), winter (E. coli = 0.487; enterococci = 0.389), and spring (E. coli = 0.489; enterococci = 0.348). E. faecalis and E. faecium, which are recognized human nosocomial pathogens, were cultured from winter (44 and 56%, respectively) and spring (13 and 31%, respectively) fecal samples.
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