The prevalence of antimicrobial-resistant Escherichia coli in sympatric wild rodents varies by season and host

N. J. Williams*, C. Sherlock, T. R. Jones, H. E. Clough, S. E. Telfer, M. Begon, N. French, C. A. Hart, M. Bennett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: To investigate the prevalence and temporal patterns of antimicrobial resistance in wild rodents with no apparent exposure to antimicrobials. Methods and Results: Two sympatric populations of bank voles and wood mice were trapped and individually monitored over a 2-year period for faecal carriage of antimicrobial-resistant Escherichia coli. High prevalences of ampicillin-, chloramphenicol-, tetracycline- and trimethoprim-resistant E. coli were observed. A markedly higher prevalence of antimicrobial-resistant E. coli was found in wood mice than in bank voles, with the prevalence in both increasing over time. Superimposed on this trend was a seasonal cycle with a peak prevalence of resistant E. coli in mice in early- to mid-summer and in voles in late summer and early autumn. Conclusions: These sympatric rodent species had no obvious contact with antimicrobials, and the difference in resistance profiles between rodent species and seasons suggests that factors present in their environment are unlikely to be drivers of such resistance. Significance and Impact of the Study: These findings suggest that rodents may represent a reservoir of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, transmissible to livestock and man. Furthermore, such findings have implications for human and veterinary medicine regarding antimicrobial usage and subsequent selection of antimicrobial-resistant organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)962-970
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Escherichia coli
  • Temporal variation
  • Wildlife


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