Research – Migratory birds along the Mediterranean – Black Sea Flyway as carriers of zoonotic pathogens

NRC

At the crossroad between Europe, Asia, and Africa, Bulgaria is part of the Mediterranean – Black Sea Flyway (MBSF) used by millions of migratory birds. In this study, bird species migrating through Bulgaria were investigated as carriers of zoonotic pathogens. In total, 706 birds belonging to 46 species were checked for the presence of various bacterial pathogens (Campylobacter, Yersinia, Salmonella, Listeria, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Francisella tularensis, Coxiella burnetii, Borrelia burgdorferi, and Brucella spp.). From 673 birds we investigated fecal samples, from the remaining 33, blood samples. We detected Campylobacter 16S rDNA gene in 1.3% of birds, but none were of pathogenic Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli species. Escherichia coli 16S rDNA gene was found in 8.8% of the birds. Out of 34 birds that transported Yersinia enterocolitica strains (5.05%), only 1 carried a pathogenic isolate. Three birds (0.4%) were carriers of nonpathogenic Salmonella strains. Four avian samples (0.6%) were positive for Listeria monocytogenes and 1 (0.15%) was positive for Brucella spp. None of the birds tested carried the tick-borne pathogens C. burnetii or B. burgdorferi sensu lato. Antibiotic-resistant strains were detected, suggesting that migratory birds could be reservoirs and spreaders of bacterial pathogens as well as antibiotic resistance genes.

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