The emergence of colistin resistance is a One Health antimicrobial resistance challenge worldwide. The close contact between companion animals and humans creates opportunities for transmission and dissemination of colistin-resistant bacteria.
To detect potential animal reservoirs of colistin-resistant Escherichia coli and investigate the possible sharing of these bacteria between dogs, cats and their cohabiting humans in the community in Lisbon, Portugal.
A prospective longitudinal study was performed from 2018 to 2020. Faecal samples from dogs and cats either healthy or diagnosed with a skin and soft tissue or urinary tract infection, and their cohabiting humans were screened for the presence of colistin-resistant E. coli. All isolates were tested by broth microdilution against colistin and 12 other antimicrobials. Colistin-resistant isolates were screened for 30 resistance genes, including plasmid-mediated colistin resistance genes ( mcr-1 to mcr-9), and typed by multilocus sequence typing. Genetic relatedness between animal and human isolates was analysed by whole genome sequencing.
Colistin-resistant E. coli strains harbouring the mcr-1 gene were recovered from faecal samples of companion animals (8/102; 7.8%) and humans (4/125; 3.2%). No difference between control and infection group was detected. Indistinguishable multidrug-resistant E. coli ST744 strains harbouring the mcr-1 gene were found in humans and their dogs in two households.
The identification of identical E. coli strains containing the plasmid-mediated mcr-1 gene in companion animals and humans in daily close contact is of concern. These results demonstrate the importance of the animal–human unit as possible disseminators of clinically important resistance genes in the community setting.