Antibiotic resistance profiling of Escherichia coli isolated from wild and agricultural animals

  • Cooper, Ian (PI)
  • Caplin, Jon (CoI)
  • Bardiau, Marjorie (CoI)
  • Scott, Dawn (PI)
  • Tolhurst, Bryony (CoI)

Project Details


Escherichia coli (E. coli) is ubiquitous in human and animal populations, where it exists as part of the normal flora of the gastro-intestinal tract. As such, E. coli are used as an indicator of faecal pollution in soil, water and food matrices. Transmission between such environments is possible through direct contact with animals, and interspecies fighting and territory conflict. Research has shown that the bacterium is capable of surviving in environmental matrices for considerable periods of time, suggesting that isolates might transfer between host animals. This leads to the potential for the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes between the bacteria both within host animals, and the environment.

The aims of the project are

> to characterise antibiotic resistance profiles in Escherichia coli populations isolated from wild and agricultural animal populations in South East England.
> to monitor shifts in antibiotic resistance over time.
> to assess the impact of legislation restricting the use of antibiotics in agricultural animals.
> to compare the antibiotic resistance profiles of agricultural and wild animals.

Key findings

Changes in antibiotic resistance patterns amongst Escherichia coli isolates recovered from agricultural animal populations have been observed since 2002. The majority of isolates are resistant to at least one class of human or veterinary associated antibiotic. Expanding the research in to wild animal populations in 2015 has revealed significant resistance to human and veterinary antibiotics within these wild animal populations.

This project is being conducted in Southeast England, specifically centred in Sussex. Through the use of traditional Kirby-Bauer and PCR-based technology platforms, it has been possible to monitor changes in resistance profiles from E. coli isolates recovered from animals, river and coastal sediment over time. To date, the project has indicated large scale resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics, such as amoxy/clav, and macrolides, such as erythromycin. Perhaps of greater significance is that approximately 40 per cent of all isolates are capable of producing beta-lactamase.

Invited Platform Presentation

Cooper I. A comparison of the virulence & antibiotic-resistance profiles of Escherichia coli O157 recovered from freshwater epilithic biofilms, agricultural animal populations, and from incidents of clinical disease in the UK. NanBacterphageSERS Conference. Koycegiz, Turkey. 2014.

Peer-Reviewed Papers

Cooper I. R., Taylor H. D., Hanlon G. W. (2007) Virulence traits associated with verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli O157 recovered from freshwater biofilms. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 102 (5): 1293-1299.

Cooper I. R. (2007) Investigating the role of freshwater epilithic biofilms in harbouring virulent Escherichia coli O157 in an agricultural environment. The Microbiologist, 47-8.

Cooper I. R. (2003) The presence of enteric pathogens in temperate freshwater biofilms: implications for disease. Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management, south eastern branch Young Author of the Year.
Effective start/end date1/01/0231/12/18


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