The aim of this study was to determine and characterize potential resistance mechanisms against selected Critically Important Antibiotics in Escherichia coli isolates collected from wild and domestic ruminants living in the Maiella National Park, in Central Italy. A total of 38 isolates were obtained from red deer, Apennine chamois, cattle, sheep, and goats grazing in lands with different levels of anthropic pressure. Antimicrobial susceptibility was determined by Minimal Inhibitory Concentration testing, showing phenotypic resistance to colistin, meropenem, or ceftazidime in 9 isolates along with one bacterial strain being resistant to three of the tested antibiotics. In addition, the biomolecular assays allowed the amplification of the genes conferring the colistin (mcr-4), the carbapenems (OXA-48), penicillins and cephalosporins (TEM, SHV, CMY-1, CMY-2) resistance. In order to describe the potential pathogenicity of isolates under study, virulence genes related to Shiga toxin-producing (STEC) and enteropathogenic (EPEC) pathovars were identified. This study is the first report of mcr-4 and OXA-48 genes in resistant E. coli harboring virulence genes in Italian wildlife, with special regard to Apennine chamois and red deer species. The multidisciplinary approach used in this study can improve the early detection of emerging antibiotic resistance determinants in human-animal-environment interfaces by means of wildlife monitoring.
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