EcoARun: Unveiling the ecological dynamics of antibiotic resistance in ungulates

  • National Research Project
  • 2018 to 2021

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been identified as a global problem for public health, animal and environment. Monitoring and reporting its occurrence is a priority for health surveillance agencies worldwide. The increasing incidence of AMR in humans and livestock has been linked to the emergence of AMR in wildlife and the global dissemination of resistant bacteria by wildlife has severe implications. Wild ungulate populations have dramatically increased over the last decades in Europe, and Portugal is no exception. The present proposal will use the most widespread ungulates in Portugal as models to understand emergence, spread and persistence of AMR in the wildlife-livestock interface. These are perfect model species due to their ubiquitously, considerably large home ranges, unlikeliness of being treated with antibiotics and link humanize and natural areas. Also, they are emerging as source of foodborne diseases in humans due to the consumption of game meat. Previous work demonstrated the presence of AMR bacteria and important foodborne diseases in wild ungulates. This raised several questions, concerning the ability of ungulates to act as reservoirs of AMR and the mechanisms of AMR persistence. In this project, we will i) characterize the prevalence of AMR bacteria in the meat of hunted ungulates, ii) understand the impact of human activities in the development of AMR in ungulates and iii) develop prediction models of AMR dynamics in wild ungulates. This proposal will answer fundamental questions regarding the role of wild ungulates as sources of resistance for livestock, and the likely mechanisms of persistence of AMR. This will be the first study in Portugal to characterize AMR in the interface ungulates-livestock. The study of these patterns only makes sense in the light of landscape ecology. This project is pioneer by intersecting infectious disease ecology, landscape ecology, and microbiology, to infer emergence, transmission and the spatial drivers of AMR across space and species. Such approach will significantly contribute to disclose the dynamics of AMR in the wildlife-livestock interface. Such understanding is critical for identifying populations at risk, mapping high-risk areas and, consequently, targeting surveillance and designing proactive management programmes.

Funding Institution:

Financiado por Programa Operacional Competitividade e Internacionalização e Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P. (ref. POCI-01-0145-FEDER-030310).


Investigador Responsável: Rita Torres (Universidade de Aveiro).