Polar Bear Poo (and you)

Whenever you hear a hospital epi person complaining about collecting peri-rectal swabs for research or clinical purposes, you could remind them of this study (or here for another summary). Researchers from Norway wanted to determine if resistance genes were naturally occurring or if they were products of the exposure to "the selective pressure of pharmaceutically produced antibiotics." They were specifically interested in β-lactam antibiotics and the β-lactamases produced by blaTEM genes.

They couldn't just go swab pigs since they are exposed either directly or indirectly to antibiotics through close contact with humans. Thus, they wanted to find an animal without close contact with humans and they couldn't just pick up feces since they could have been contaminated on the ground. So, they grabbed their tranquilizer guns, hopped into their helicopters and found 10 polar bears, 5 in 2004 and 5 in 2006, to shoot. (I wonder if they could see Russian from their copters?) They then got the 10 rectal samples directly from the bears after each signed their HIPAA and consent forms.

When they tested the isolates for blaTEM by PCR, only 4 of 144 isolates were positive and all were in E. coli isolates. These levels were far below what has been detected in other wild or domestic animals and certainly in humans. Perhaps this is good news, since it suggests that removing unnecessary antibiotic exposures in humans and animals may lead to lower density of resistance genes and less resistance.


Most Read Posts (Last 30 Days)