The gastrointestinal (GI) tracts of non-human primates (NHPs) are well known to harbor Escherichia coli, a known commensal of human beings and animals. While E. coli is a normal inhabitant of the mammalian gut, it also exists in a number of pathogenic forms or pathotypes, including those with predisposition for the GI tract as well as the urogenital tract. Diarrhea in captive NHPs has long been a problem in both zoo settings and research colonies, including the Como Zoo. It is an animal welfare concern, as well as a public health concern. E. coli has not been extensively studied; therefore, a study was performed during the summer of 2009 in collaboration with a zoo in Saint Paul, MN, which was previously experiencing an increased incidence and severity of diarrhea among their NHP collection. Fresh fecal samples were collected weekly from each member of the primate collection, between June and August of 2009, and E. coli were isolated. A total of 33 individuals were included in the study, representing eight species. E. coli isolates were examined for their genetic relatedness, phylogenetic relationships, plasmid replicon types, virulence gene profiles, and antimicrobial susceptibility profiles. A number of isolates were identified containing virulence genes commonly found in several different E. coli pathotypes, and there was evidence of clonal transmission of isolates between animals and over time. Overall, the manifestation of chronic diarrhea in the Como Zoo primate collection is a complex problem whose solution will require regular screening for microbial agents and consideration of environmental causes. This study provides some insight toward the sharing of enteric bacteria between such animals.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The research in this study complied with protocols approved through the University of Minnesota Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and adhered to the legal requirements of the country in which it was conducted. The authors would like to thank the Como Zoo primate keepers for their assistance with fecal collection, sample identification, and providing all background information necessary to conduct this study. We thank current and past members of the Johnson Laboratory, Kevin Lang and Claudia Fernandez for technical assistance, as well as Bonnie Youmans for providing critical reading of the manuscript. We thank the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine's Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (VDL), especially Arno Wunschmann, for providing information related to the diagnostic testing history at Como Zoo. We thank Dr. Edward Dudley (Penn State University) and Dr. Richard Isaacson (University of Minnesota) for providing positive controls for PCR genotyping. This research was funded by Morris Animal Foundation through a Veterinary Student Scholars Grant, by Merial/NIH through a Summers Scholars Grant, and by the University of Minnesota.
- Antibiotic resistance
- Escherichia coli
- Non-human primate