Ramos B, Rosalino LM, Palmeira JD, Torres RT, Cunha MV.
Staphylococcus aureus is a human pathobiont (i.e., a commensal microorganism that is potentially pathogenic under certain conditions), a nosocomial pathogen and a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in humans. S. aureus is also a commensal and pathogen of companion animals and livestock. The dissemination of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) S. aureus, particularly methicillin-resistant (MRSA), has been associated to its ability for establishing new reservoirs, but limited attention has been devoted to the role of the environment. To fill this gap, we aimed to characterize animal carrier status, AMR phenotypes, predominant clonal lineages and their relationship with clinical and food-chain settings, as well as to find predictors of AMR occurrence. Nasal swabs (n = 254) from wild boar (n = 177), red deer (n = 54) and fallow deer (n = 23) hunted in Portugal, during the season 2019/2020, yielded an overall carrier proportion of 35.8%, ranging from 53.7% for red deer and 32.2% for wild boar to 21.7% for fallow deer. MRSA from wild boar and phenotypically linezolid-resistant S. aureus from wild boar and red deer were isolated, indicating that resistance to antimicrobials restricted to clinical practice also occurs in wildlife. The most prevalent genotypes were t11502/ST2678 (29.6%) and t12939/ST2678 (9.4%), previously reported in wild boar from Spain. Clonal lineages reported in humans and livestock, like CC1, CC5 or CC8 (19.1%) and ST425, CC133 or CC398 (23.5%), respectively, were also found. The sequence type ST544, previously restricted to humans, is described in wildlife for the first time. We also identified that land use (agricultural land cover), human driven disturbance (swine abundance) and host-related factors (sex) determine resistance occurrence. These findings suggest that antibiotics used in clinical settings, agriculture and livestock farming, spill over to wildlife, leading to AMR emergence, with potential biological, ecological, and human health effects. This work is one of the most comprehensive surveys in Europe of S. aureus occurrence and determinants among widely distributed wild ungulates.