Enteric bacterial pathogen detection in southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) is associated with coastal urbanization and freshwater runoff

Melissa A. Miller, Barbara A Byrne, Spencer S. Jang, Erin M. Dodd, Elene Dorfmeier, Michael D. Harris, Jack Ames, David Paradies, Karen Worcester, David A. Jessup, Woutrina A Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although protected for nearly a century, California's sea otters have been slow to recover, in part due to exposure to fecally-associated protozoal pathogens like Toxoplasma gondii and Sarcocystis neurona. However, potential impacts from exposure to fecal bacteria have not been systematically explored. Using selective media, we examined feces from live and dead sea otters from California for specific enteric bacterial pathogens (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, C. difficile and Escherichia coli O157:H7), and pathogens endemic to the marine environment (Vibrio cholerae, V. parahaemolyticus and Plesiomonas shigelloides). We evaluated statistical associations between detection of these pathogens in otter feces and demographic or environmental risk factors for otter exposure, and found that dead otters were more likely to test positive for C. perfringens, Campylobacter and V. parahaemolyticus than were live otters. Otters from more urbanized coastlines and areas with high freshwater runoff (near outflows of rivers or streams) were more likely to test positive for one or more of these bacterial pathogens. Other risk factors for bacterial detection in otters included male gender and fecal samples collected during the rainy season when surface runoff is maximal. Similar risk factors were reported in prior studies of pathogen exposure for California otters and their invertebrate prey, suggesting that land-sea transfer and/or facilitation of pathogen survival in degraded coastal marine habitat may be impacting sea otter recovery. Because otters and humans share many of the same foods, our findings may also have implications for human health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalVeterinary Research
Volume41
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2010

Fingerprint

microbial detection
Otters
Urbanization
Fresh Water
urbanization
runoff
Enhydra lutris
pathogens
risk factors
Campylobacter
Plesiomonas shigelloides
feces
Clostridium perfringens C
Sarcocystis neurona
pathogen survival
Vibrio cholerae
Vibrio parahaemolyticus
Clostridium perfringens
selective media
Toxoplasma gondii

Keywords

  • Campylobacter
  • Clostridium
  • Salmonella
  • Sea otter
  • Vibrio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)

Cite this

Enteric bacterial pathogen detection in southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) is associated with coastal urbanization and freshwater runoff. / Miller, Melissa A.; Byrne, Barbara A; Jang, Spencer S.; Dodd, Erin M.; Dorfmeier, Elene; Harris, Michael D.; Ames, Jack; Paradies, David; Worcester, Karen; Jessup, David A.; Smith, Woutrina A.

In: Veterinary Research, Vol. 41, No. 1, 01.2010.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Miller, Melissa A. ; Byrne, Barbara A ; Jang, Spencer S. ; Dodd, Erin M. ; Dorfmeier, Elene ; Harris, Michael D. ; Ames, Jack ; Paradies, David ; Worcester, Karen ; Jessup, David A. ; Smith, Woutrina A. / Enteric bacterial pathogen detection in southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) is associated with coastal urbanization and freshwater runoff. In: Veterinary Research. 2010 ; Vol. 41, No. 1.
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AB - Although protected for nearly a century, California's sea otters have been slow to recover, in part due to exposure to fecally-associated protozoal pathogens like Toxoplasma gondii and Sarcocystis neurona. However, potential impacts from exposure to fecal bacteria have not been systematically explored. Using selective media, we examined feces from live and dead sea otters from California for specific enteric bacterial pathogens (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, C. difficile and Escherichia coli O157:H7), and pathogens endemic to the marine environment (Vibrio cholerae, V. parahaemolyticus and Plesiomonas shigelloides). We evaluated statistical associations between detection of these pathogens in otter feces and demographic or environmental risk factors for otter exposure, and found that dead otters were more likely to test positive for C. perfringens, Campylobacter and V. parahaemolyticus than were live otters. Otters from more urbanized coastlines and areas with high freshwater runoff (near outflows of rivers or streams) were more likely to test positive for one or more of these bacterial pathogens. Other risk factors for bacterial detection in otters included male gender and fecal samples collected during the rainy season when surface runoff is maximal. Similar risk factors were reported in prior studies of pathogen exposure for California otters and their invertebrate prey, suggesting that land-sea transfer and/or facilitation of pathogen survival in degraded coastal marine habitat may be impacting sea otter recovery. Because otters and humans share many of the same foods, our findings may also have implications for human health.

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