Dolphins Are Becoming Resistant to Antibiotics, and Here’s Why It Should Bother Us

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Dolphins are one of the friendliest aquatic creatures, and there’s something about them that is causing worry among experts. According to a recent study published in the journal Aquatic Mammals has focused on how antibiotic resistance is on a rise among dolphins, mirroring the trend seen in humans.

The research was conducted by the researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in collaboration with Georgia Aquarium , the Medical University of South Carolina and Colorado State University. The study focused on antibiotic resistance among pathogens isolated from bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon. The samples were collected between 2003 and 2015.

Out of the 733 samples analysed from 171 dolphins, 88% contained a pathogen resistant to at least one antibiotic. The antibiotic to which the pathogens were most commonly resistant was erythromycin. It is to be noted that this antibiotic is used to treat chest infections, acne and sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia and syphilis. Another antibiotic resistance to the ciprofloxacin among E coli pathogens more than doubled over the period studied.

“Antibiotic resistance is one of the most significant risks to public health,” said Gregory Bossart, the chief veterinary officer at Georgia Aquarium and a co-author of the study. She added, “As resistance increases, the probability of successfully treating infections caused by common pathogens decreases.” At least 2 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection in the US each year, and at least 23,000 people die as a result.

“This trend mirrors reports from human healthcare settings. Based on our findings, it is likely that these isolates from dolphins originated from a source where antibiotics were regularly used,” Bossart added.