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Free-living birds from Caatinga and Atlantic Forest of northeast Brazil as hosts of Enterobacterales, Mycoplasma spp., and Chlamydia psittaci


Apparently healthy birds in protected areas in northeastern Brazil were investigated, whether shedding bacterial pathogens to the environment. We determined whether pathogens varied according to the level of the shared habitat human of each protected area, the type of vegetation, hosts’ group and different history traits as migration and foraging behavior, body mass, and sensitivity to human impacts. In addition, we also investigated whether the protected areas were preserving the wildlife from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. For that, oropharyngeal and cloacal swabs were collected from 507 individuals of 91 species. In the culture-dependent method, most of the bacterial isolates belonged to Enterobacterales, with the highest frequency of Klebsiella aerogenes (20.5%) and Escherichia coli (19.3%). There was no relationship between Enterobacterales occurrence according to the type of vegetation, hosts’ group and history traits as foraging behavior (foraging stratum and main trophic category), and body mass, and there was a low association between the protected area and Enterobacterales (φ = 0.17). For Mycoplasma, 10.8% of PCR-tested individuals were positive, with high variation among sampled families, but none of them was positive for M. gallisepticum and M. synoviae. The protected area closer to human settlements presented more resistant isolates to broad-spectrum antibiotics gentamicin (φ = 0.45) and tetracycline (φ = 0.37) and also presented the two positive samples to primary pathogenic Chlamydia psittaci. The birds in the sampled protected areas may host and spread potentially pathogenic microorganisms as C. psittaci and Citrobacter freundii in low frequency in balanced co-existence of host/parasite. However, antibiotic-resistant Enterobacterales in protected areas might represent an impact on its bird populations and on the conservation of the environment.

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We are thankful to the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq 481663/2011-8) for its financial support, for the fellowships to RAM and JCRS, to the National Center for Bird Conservation Research (CEMAVE), and especially to the field team Adriana C. Dias, Ailton de Oliveira, Andressa N. Pessoa, Andressa C. Scabin, Antonio E.B. Sousa, Cristine Prates, Cayo L.G. Silva, Dillys Costa, Fabiane F. Dias, Fernanda P. Marques, Flor Maria Guedes Las Casas, Ingrid M.D. Torres, Jonathas L. Souza, José T.A. Santos, Leontina H.M. Andrade, Ludmila M. Magroski, Márcia S. Amorim, Marcus M.R. Amorim, Murilo Arantes, Nathália C. T. Vasconcelos, Rachel Lyra-Neves, Randson M. C. Paixão, Renata F. Hurtado, Roberta Rodrigues, Sebastião S. Santos, and Thayz R. Enedino.


This study was funded by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq 481663/2011–8).

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C.L. conceived of the presented idea. C.L. and M.M.R.A. performed the field expeditions. L.T.R.S., C.L., and S.B.S. performed the Mycoplasma PCRs. M.M.R.A. and D.C.V.L. performed the aerobic bacteria isolation. A.B.S. performed the PCR for virulent genes of Escherichia coli, T.F.R. performed the Chlamydia psittaci PCR. J.C.R.S. and R.A.M. supervised the project. C.L. performed the computations and analytical methods. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Camile Lugarini.

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All captures and procedures were authorized by The Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (SISBIO numbers 23405, 36538 and 36299, SNA numbers 3604, 3625) and by the Bioethics Committee of the “Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco” (number 040/2013).

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All the authors are in accordance to publish this article. We declare that it is an original article and it has not been published before; not under consideration for publication anywhere else. The final version has been approved by all co-authors.

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The authors declare no competing interest.

Additional information

Communicated by Caio Graco Machado.

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Lugarini, C., Silva, L.T.R., de Amorim, M.M.R. et al. Free-living birds from Caatinga and Atlantic Forest of northeast Brazil as hosts of Enterobacterales, Mycoplasma spp., and Chlamydia psittaci. Ornithol. Res. 29, 149–159 (2021).

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  • Conservation
  • Escherichia coli
  • Microbiota
  • Passerines
  • Pathogenic bacteria