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Evidence of land-sea transfer of the zoonotic pathogen Campylobacter to a wildlife marine sentinel species

Baily J, Meric G, Bayliss S, Foster G, Moss SE, Watson E, Pascoe B, Mikhail J, Pizzi R, Goldstone RJ, Smith DGE, Willoughby K, Hall AJ, Sheppard SK & Dagleish MP (2015) Evidence of land-sea transfer of the zoonotic pathogen Campylobacter to a wildlife marine sentinel species, Molecular Ecology, 24 (1), pp. 208-221.

Environmental pollution often accompanies the expansion and urbanization of human populations where sewage and wastewaters commonly have an impact on the marine environments. Here, we explored the potential for faecal bacterial pathogens, of anthropic origin, to spread to marine wildlife in coastal areas. The common zoonotic bacteriumCampylobacterwas isolated from grey seals (Halichoerus grypus), an important sentinel species for environmental pollution, and compared to isolates from wild birds, agricultural sources and clinical samples to characterize possible transmission routes.Campylobacter jejuniwas present in half of all grey seal pups sampled (24/50 dead and 46/90 live pups) in the breeding colony on the Isle of May (Scotland), where it was frequently associated with histological evidence of disease. Returning yearling animals (19/19) were negative forC.jejunisuggesting clearance of infection while away from the localized colony infection source. The genomes of 90 isolates from seals were sequenced and characterized using a whole-genome multilocus sequence typing (MLST) approach and compared to 192 published genomes from multiple sources using population genetic approaches and a probabilistic genetic attribution model to infer the source of infection from MLST data. The strong genotype-host association has enabled the application of source attribution models in epidemiological studies of human campylobacteriosis, and here assignment analyses consistently grouped seal isolates with those from human clinical samples. These findings are consistent with either a common infection source or direct transmission of humancampylobacterto grey seals, raising concerns about the spread of human pathogens to wildlife marine sentinel species in coastal areas.

Campylobacter; environmental health; genomics; grey seals; source attribution

AuthorsBaily Johanna, Meric Guillaume, Bayliss Sion, Foster Geoff, Moss Simon E, Watson Eleanor, Pascoe Ben, Mikhail Jane, Pizzi Romain, Goldstone Robert J, Smith David G E, Willoughby Kim, Hall Ailsa J, Sheppard Samuel K, Dagleish Mark P
Publication date01/2015
Publication date online17/11/2014
Date accepted by journal13/11/2014
ISSN 0962-1083

Molecular Ecology: Volume 24, Issue 1

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