Multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli bacteria in imported dogs

Recently, especially imported shelter dogs, brought from unhygienic conditions have been found to be heavily colonized with ESBL/AmpC Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. ESBL/AmpC-producing bacteria have the ability to break down commonly used antibiotics rendering them ineffective for treatment. In certain conditions resistance genes can transfer between bacterial species, which is worrisome considering the diffusion of antimicrobial resistance.

ESBL/AmpC-producing E. coli bacteria and infections caused by these bacteria has increased worldwide in the 2000s. Therefore, it is crucial to study these bacteria and their diffusion in depth.

The aim of this research project is to characterize ESBL/AmpC-producing E. coli bacteria that have been isolated from the imported dogs in depth using whole-genome sequencing (WGS). WGS provides a comprehensive way to analyze entire bacterial genomes and the associated resistance genes. In addition to the study of chromosomal genome, it is possible to characterize the associated plasmids, that are important vectors for the diffusion of bacterial resistance and virulence genes. From epidemiological aspect, WGS can be used to observe the potential transmission pathways and to perform phylogenetic analysis for the clinically important strains. It is particularly important to study the plasmid epidemiology to understand and prevent the transmission of antimicrobial resistance. In this research we try to unravel the role of household pets in the diffusion of antimicrobial resistance between animals and humans. The information that this study provides can be used to build feasible prevention measures, for example enhancing the living conditions of shelter dogs and bring forth better pet hygiene practices.

This research project is conducted in cooperation with Finnish Food Authority.