Content continues after advertisement

Antibiotic-Resistant Escherichia coli in Pet Birds

Marcy J. Souza, DVM, MPH, MPPA, DABVP (Avian), DACVPM, University of Tennessee

Sign in to Print/View PDF

In the Literature

Yilmaz EŞ, Dolar A. Detection of extended-spectrum β-lactamases in Escherichia coli from cage birds. J Exotic Pet Med. 2017;26(1):13-18.

From the Page …

Extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Escherichia coli or other Enterobacteriaceae are a globally emerging public health problem.1 Because many humans closely interact with animals regularly, there is opportunity for these bacteria to cross species. 

This study sought to determine prevalence and characteristics of ESBL-producing E coli in cage birds in pet stores. Fecal samples were collected from birds that were for sale in 15 different pet stores in Hatay, Turkey, and cultured; E coli was identified and was confirmed via PCR. Additional testing was performed on the samples to determine antibiotic susceptibility as well as for further classification with DNA sequencing and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis.  

Fecal samples were collected from 148 birds, the majority from 3 species: canaries and hybrids (Serinus canaria, n = 44), parakeets (Melopsittacus undulatus, n = 34), and zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata, n = 33). The remaining 37 samples were split among 13 other avian species. Only 4 of the 148 sample isolates contained ESBL-producing E coli. These samples came from M undulatus (n = 3) and T guttata (n = 1). The isolates were susceptible to gentamicin, imipenem, cefotetan, amikacin, cefoxitin, and tobramycin. Various rates of resistance to commonly used antibiotics such as ampicillin, amoxicillin–clavulanic acid, ciprofloxacin, and tetracycline were found. 

Although these birds showed no overt signs of illness associated with E coli infection, transmission of the organism to caretakers is possible. This was the first study to examine carriage of antibiotic resistant E coli in birds commonly kept as pets. The prevalence of infection was relatively low, but this could be in part due to the limited samples collected from many of the species included in the study. Regardless, isolating ESBL-producing E coli warrants precautions to reduce the likelihood of humans contracting disease. As with all organisms transmitted through the fecal-oral route, basic precautions (eg, handwashing, enclosure cleaning, disinfection) can greatly reduce the likelihood of exposure and infection to caretakers.

… To Your Patients 

Key pearls to put into practice:


Clients and team members should be advised to practice good hygiene, especially diligent handwashing, to avoid exposure to potentially antibiotic-resistant bacteria from animals. 


Regular cleaning and disinfection of animal enclosures will reduce the buildup of organic material that might harbor infectious agents. 


Proper selection of antibiotics based on culture and susceptibility testing is strongly advised to avoid inappropriate or unnecessary use.

References and Author Information

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

All Clinician's Brief content is reviewed for accuracy at the time of publication. Previously published content may not reflect recent developments in research and practice.

Material from Clinician's Brief may not be reproduced, distributed, or used in whole or in part without prior permission of Educational Concepts, LLC. For questions or inquiries please contact us.


Clinician's Brief:
The Podcast
Listen as host Alyssa Watson, DVM, talks with the authors of your favorite Clinician’s Brief articles. Dig deeper and explore the conversations behind the content here.
Clinician's Brief provides relevant diagnostic and treatment information for small animal practitioners. It has been ranked the #1 most essential publication by small animal veterinarians for 9 years.*

*2007-2017 PERQ and Essential Media Studies

© 2023 Educational Concepts, L.L.C. dba Brief Media ™ All Rights Reserved. Terms & Conditions | DMCA Copyright | Privacy Policy | Acceptable Use Policy