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Resistance to carbapenems and other antibiotics in Klebsiella pneumoniae found in seals indicates anthropogenic pollution
  1. James Paul Duff1,
  2. Manal AbuOun2,
  3. Steve Bexton3,
  4. Jon Rogers4,
  5. Jane Turton5,
  6. Neil Woodford5,
  7. Richard Irvine6,
  8. Muna Anjum2 and
  9. Christopher Teale7
  1. 1 Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA), Diseases of Wildlife Scheme, APHA Penrith Veterinary Investigation Centre, Penrith, UK
  2. 2 Department of Bacteriology, Animal and Plant Health Agency, Weybridge, UK
  3. 3 RSPCA Norfolk Wildlife Hospital, Kings Lynn, UK
  4. 4 Animal and Plant Health Agency Bury St Edmunds Veterinary Investigation Centre, Bury St Edmunds, UK
  5. 5 National Infection Service, Public Health England, London, UK
  6. 6 Surveillance Intelligence Unit, Animal and Plant Health Agency, Weybridge, UK
  7. 7 Animal Plant and Health Agency Shrewsbury Veterinary Investigation Centre, Shrewsbury, UK
  1. Correspondence to Mr James Paul Duff, Diseases of Wildlife Scheme, SIU, Animal and Plant Health Agency, Penrith, Cumbria, UK; paul.duff{at}


Background The beta-lactamase enzyme OXA-48 has spread widely in recent years in Enterobacteriaceae associated with man, disseminated primarily on incompatibility group L/M plasmids. OXA-48 confers resistance to carbapenems, important antimicrobials for treating highly resistant bacterial infections in humans. This enzyme has rarely been detected in bacteria from animals. Furthermore, the use of carbapenem compounds is not permitted in food-producing animals in Europe and to our knowledge has not been reported in food-producing animals globally.

Methods Bacterial isolates from lesions in stranded, free-living, juvenile common seals (Phoca vitulina) were identified. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing and whole genome sequencing analysis were used to characterise antimicrobial resistance genes carried by the bacteria.

Results Here, we report the detection of Klebsiella pneumoniae subspecies pneumoniae carrying the bla OXA-48 gene on an incompatibility group L/M plasmid from an infection in a common seal.

Conclusion Evidence is accruing that marine mammals may be infected with bacteria originating from anthropogenic sources, such as human sewage, contaminating the environment.

  • antimicrobials
  • bacteriology
  • marine mammals
  • resistance
  • molecular biology
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  • Funding This work was funded by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate under VMD grant number VM0533. The APHA Diseases of Wildlife Scheme is funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), project ED1600.

  • Disclaimer This report presents independent research by the Animal and Plant Health Agency. The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Defra or the VMD.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available in a public, open access repository. The BL533 raw sequence data generated and analysed in this work are available in the European Nucleotide Archive (ENA) under study accession number PRJEB28252.

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