ABSTRACT

The prevalence and diversity of Staphylococcus species from wild European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in the Azores were investigated, and the antibiotic resistance phenotype and genotype of the isolates were determined. Nasal samples from 77 wild European rabbits from São Jorge and São Miguel islands in Azores were examined. Antibiotic susceptibility of the isolates was determined using the Kirby-Bauer disk diffusion method, and the presence of antimicrobial resistance genes and virulence factors was determined by PCR. The genetic lineages of S. aureus isolates were characterized by spa typing and multilocus sequence typing. A total of 49 staphylococci were obtained from 35 of the 77 wild rabbits. Both coagulase-positive (8.2%) and coagulase-negative (91.8%) staphylococci were detected: 4 S. aureus, 17 S. fleurettii, 13 S. sciuri, 7 S. xylosus, 4 S. epidermidis, and 1 each of S. simulans, S. saprophyticus, S. succinus, and S. equorum. The four S. aureus isolates showed methicillin susceptibility and were characterized as spa type t272/CC121, Panton-Valentine leukocidin negative, and hlB positive. Most of the coagulase-negative staphylococci showed resistance to fusidic acid and beta-lactams, and multidrug resistance was identified especially among S. epidermidis isolates. The mecA gene was detected in 20 isolates of the species S. fleurettii and S. epidermidis, associated with the blaZ gene in one S. epidermidis isolate. Five antimicrobial resistance genes were detected in one S. epidermidis isolate (mecA,dfrA,dfrG,aac6′-aph2′′, and ant4). Our results highlight that wild rabbits are reservoirs or “temporary hosts” of Staphylococcus species with zoonotic potential, some of them carrying relevant antimicrobial resistances.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Staphylococci are frequently detected in nasal samples of wild rabbits.

  • Main Staphylococcus spp. (of 9 detected): fleurettii, sciuri, xylosus, epidermidis, and aureus.

  • All S. aureus were MSSA and typed as t272/CC121.

  • The mecA gene was detected in 44% of CoNS; all were of S. epidermidis or S. fleurettii species.

  • Fusidic acid resistance is detected in most of CoNS, and multidrug resistance in S. epidermidis.

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