Association of antimicrobial resistance and gut microbiota composition in human and non-human primates at an urban ecotourism site

C. W. Chong, A. H.S. Alkatheeri, N. Ali, Z. H. Tay, Y. L. Lee, S. J. Paramasivam, K. Jeevaratnam, W. Y. Low, S. H.E. Lim

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Background: The rise of nature-based ecotourism in the past decade has introduced unprecedented challenges in managing the increasing interaction between humans and animals. The potential transmission of antibiotic resistant microbes between humans and non-human primate populations is a concern due to their genetic similarity. Malaysia is well known for hotspots of wildlife diversity where non-human primates like monkeys and orangutans have become popular tourist attractions. In this study, we assessed the prevalence of antimicrobial resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus species, and other Enterobacteriaceae in the faeces of human (HS) and two non-human primates (NHP) in Malaysia, the Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis, MF) and Silvered leaf monkey (Trachypithecus cristatus, TC). In addition, the faecal bacterial composition was profiled to evaluate the potential association between antibiotic resistant profiles and composition of gut microbiota. Results: We tested the isolated bacteria using a selection of antibiotics. The results showed that both the number of antibiotic resistant strains and resistance level were higher in humans than NHPs. Overall, the composition of gut microbiome and pattern of antibiotic resistance showed that there was higher similarity between MF and TC, the two NHPs, than with HS. In addition, samples with higher levels of antibiotic resistance showed lower bacterial richness. Homo sapiens had the lowest bacterial diversity and yet it had higher abundance of Bacteroides. In contrast, NHPs displayed higher bacterial richness and greater prevalence of Firmicutes such as Ruminococceae and Oscillospira. Conclusion: Higher antibiotic susceptibility in NHPs is likely related to low direct exposure to antibiotics. The lack of resistance may also suggest limited antimicrobial resistance transmission between humans and NHP. Nonetheless, continued monitoring over a long period will help mitigate the risk of anthropozoonosis and zooanthroponosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14
Number of pages12
JournalGut Pathogens
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2020


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Ecotourism
  • Human animal interaction
  • Non-human primates

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