Effects of freshwater sponge Ephydatia fluviatilis on conjugative transfer of antimicrobial resistance in Enterococcus faecalis strains in aquatic environments: Antibiotic resistance transfer in sponges

Allison Cartwright, Joerg Arnscheidt, Michael Conwell, JSG Dooley, C McGonigle, Patrick Naughton

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Abstract

Filter feeding is a biotic process that brings waterborne bacteria in close contact with each other and may thus support the horizontal transfer of their antimicrobial resistance genes. This laboratory study investigated whether the freshwater sponge Ephydatia fluviatilis supported the transfer of vancomycin resistance between two Enterococcus faecalis strains that we previously demonstrated to exhibit pheromone responsive plasmid conjugation. Microcosm experiments exposed live and dead colonies of laboratory-grown sponges to a vancomycin-resistant donor strain and a rifampicin-resistant recipient strain of Ent. faecalis. Enterococci with both resistance phenotypes were detected on double selection plates. In comparison to controls, abundance of these presumed transconjugants increased significantly in water from sponge microcosms. Homogenized suspensions of sponge cells also yielded presumed transconjugants; however, there was no significant difference between samples from live or dead sponges. Fluorescent in situ hybridization analysis of the sponge cell matrix using species-specific probes revealed the presence of enterococci clusters with cells adjacent to each other. The results demonstrated that sponge colonies can support the horizontal transfer of antimicrobial resistance although the mechanism underlying this process, such as binding of the bacteria to the sponge collagen matrix, has yet to be fully elucidated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-45
Number of pages7
JournalLetters in Applied Microbiology
Volume71
Issue number1
Early online date10 May 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 May 2020

Keywords

  • Enterococcus faecalis
  • Ephydatia fluviatilis
  • biofiltration
  • conjugation
  • horizontal gene transfer

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