Bacterial infections have been documented in marine mammals for decades, and some are considered emerging pathogens with zoonotic potential. The aerobic oral (n=16) and rectal (n=17) bacterial microbiota and their antimicrobial resistance were characterized for 17 apparently healthy California sea lion pups (Zalophus californianus) captured with a hoop net in Farallon Island, Sinaloa, Mexico, in 2016. Bacteriologic cultures, API, and PCR were used to identify bacterial species. The Escherichia coli phylogenetic groups were identified by PCR, Salmonella serotypes were identified, and resistance to antibiotics was evaluated. Overall, 39 bacterial species were isolated, including E. coli and Salmonella spp. (35.9% each) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (28.2%). For E. coli, UNKNOWN phylogroup was the most prevalent (57.7%), followed by the A phylogroup (37.1%). Most Salmonella serotypes were identified as Newport (92.8%); serotype Saintpaul was also identified (7.2%). Sea lions with bacterial cocolonization included 24.2%, from which two bacterial species were isolated, and 3% with three species. Overall, 59% of bacteria were resistant to at least one antibiotic tested, and 25.6% were extensively drug resistant. Bacteria were highly resistant to ampicillin and cefotaxime. This study demonstrates the importance of characterizing the microbiome of sea lions, and the potential effect of pathogens with antimicrobial resistance on wildlife conservation and public health.

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