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Multidrug-Resistant High-Risk Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae Clonal Lineages Occur in Black-Headed Gulls from Two Conservation Islands in Germany

Multidrug-resistant (MDR) Enterobacterales, including extended-spectrum β‑lactamase (ESBL)-producing Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae, not only emerge in healthcare settings but also in other habitats, such as livestock and wildlife. The spread of these pathogens, which often combine resistance with high-level virulence, is a growing problem, as infections have become increasingly difficult to treat. Here, we investigated the occurrence of ESBL-producing E. coli and K. pneumoniae in fecal samples from two black-headed gull colonies breeding on two nature conservation islands in Western Pomerania, Germany. In addition to cloacal samples from adult birds (n = 211) and their nestlings (n = 99) during the 2021 breeding season, collective fecal samples (n = 29) were obtained. All samples were screened for ESBL producers, which were then subjected to whole-genome sequencing. We found a total of 12 ESBL-producing E. coli and K. pneumoniae consisting of 11 E. coli and 1 K. pneumoniae, and including the international high-risk E. coli sequence types (ST)131, ST38, and ST58. Eight of the investigated strains had a MDR genotype and carried a large repertoire of virulence-associated genes, including the pap operon, which is important for urinary tract infections. In addition, we identified many genes associated with adherence, biofilm formation, iron uptake, and toxin production. Finally, our analysis revealed the close phylogenetic relationship of ST38 strains with genomes originating from human sources, underlining their zoonotic and pathogenic character. This study highlights the importance of the One Health approach, and thus the interdependence between human and animal health and their surrounding environment.



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