Avian-livestock links in the demography of zoonotic bacteria and their implications for farm-worker health

In addition to Dr. Westneat, 4 other researchers were involved including Dr. Michael Flythe of the USDA, 2 PhD students and a visiting undergraduate intern from the AgroSup University in France.  The goal was to sample livestock and house sparrows living nearby screening for three types of bacteria commonly pathogenic in humans (Salmonella, E. coli, and Corynebacteria). We collected 50 samples over 10 weeks in the spring from each of goats, horses, and cows, and a total of 158 samples from house sparrows.  Selection of the key results:

  1. Positives for all three types of bacteria were found in all four species.
  2. E.coli was abundant (~80% of samples positive) and similar in all 4 species
  3. Salmonella was especially abundant in horses (60%) but in the rest it was around 20% positive. We are still working to confirm the typing of these, however.
  4. Corynebacteria were most common in Cattle (40%).
  5. Positives for all three types of bacteria were found in all four species.
  6. E.coli was abundant (~80% of samples positive) and similar in all 4 species
  7. Salmonella was especially abundant in horses (60%) but in the rest it was around 20% positive. We are still working to confirm the typing of these, however.
  8. Corynebacteria were most common in Cattle (40%).
  9. Preliminary analyses indicate a correlation between livestock and birds at the same locations.

Lab analyses included: 1) Tests of the salmonella positives to confirm their identity, and 2) a test of all positives for antibiotic resistance. We also have a wide array of statistical analyses of the patterns of prevalence within and among each species.

The preliminary analyses of the data were presented publicly at the program-ending Presentation Day of the NSF-REU “Suburban Ecology and Invasive Species” in August 2014.  This pilot project has led to a larger R01 grant submitted as part of the Southeast Center for Agricultural Health & Injury Prevention application.