Antibiotic sensitivity of bacteria isolated from the oral cavities of live white sharks

Published on
27. November 2019

Antibiotic sensitivity of bacteria isolated from the oral cavities of live white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) in South African waters

Enrico Gennari, Alison A. Kock, Malcolm J. Smale, Alison Towner, Nasreen Khan, Linda A. Bester, Ryan Johnson, Chris Fischer, Michael Meÿer, Peter Morse


The white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is responsible for 49% of shark-related injuries in South Africa, yet no information currently exists on the composition or antibiotic resistance of bacteria hosted by these apex predators in South African waters. This study aimed to address this gap by sampling the bacteria present in the oral cavities of 28 live C. carcharias along South Africa’s southern coastline. The antibiotic resistance of the range of microbiota was also assessed using antibiotic disc diffusion tests. A total of 51 strains from at least 20 species of bacteria were isolated from the oral cavities of C. carcharias. Of these strains, the most common bacteria present were Serratia spp., Proteus vulgaris and Vibrio alginolyticus. The overall antibiotic resistance was relatively higher in this study than that reported for bacterial microbiota sampled from other shark species. Results indicate that the combination therapy of imipenem (carbapenem antibiotic) and vancomycin (glycopeptide antibiotic) might be the most parsimonious option to effectively treat infections resulting from white shark bites, particularly in South Africa. It is hoped that, in addition to assisting medical professionals to treat shark bite victims, these findings enhance the understanding of the microbial communities present in large coastal predators and their surrounding environments.

S Afr J Sci. 2019;115(11/12), Art. #5972, 6 pages. DOI: 10.17159/sajs.2019/5972


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