ESBL-producing bacteria in barnacle geese

In this research project we studied barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) for their potential role as carriers of extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL), plasmidic AmpC (pAmpC) and carbapenemase-producing Escherichia coli. Wild migratory birds can potentially spread antimicrobial resistant bacteria over country borders. Approximately hundreds of thousands of barnacle geese migrate through Finland each year, with thousands also nesting in Finland, mainly in the capital region and coastal areas. Barnacle geese feed on crop fields, and also roam in densely human-populated areas, such as recreational parks. Humans may come into contact with bird droppings and the bacteria they possibly carry via the environment or via household pets, for example.

In our study we sampled barnacle geese droppings on two different occasions during 2017 - 2018 in the Helsinki area. Samples were screened for ESBL/pAmpC/carbapenemase-producing E. coli, and positive samples were studied in depth with whole genome sequencing (WGS) to help assess the risk of wild birds as a source of resistant bacteria. WGS data offers precise information on antimicrobial resistance and virulence genes, plasmid replicons, and bacterial and plasmid multilocus sequence types. ESBL/AmpC-producing E. coli was recovered from nine (4.5 %) samples and plasmid replicons belonging to IncI1 and IncK types, as well as more rarely detected plasmids, carrying multidrug resistance were detected.

The study was financially supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the grant agreement No 773830 (project One Health EJP) and the Walter Ehrström Foundation.

The published article can be found at: