Caring and sharing: captive wallaby microbes share genes with keepers’ microbes

Petrogale penicillata ; Featherdale Wildlife P...
Brush-tail rock wallabies — an endangered species (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Each of us is home to a complex ecosystem of microbes that took up residence on or in us as soon as we emerged from our mother’s womb. In fact, our passage to the outside world — whether via vaginal birth or C-section — makes a significant contribution to the  bacteria, fungi and viruses that become our constant life companions. Collectively, they are known as our microbiota, and by the age of three, the ecosystems that we harbour on every patch of skin and turn of the intestine are very similar to those of our parents.

While it may not be surprising that parents share microbes with their kids, researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney have found that animal handlers may be sharing their microbes with their furry captive charges. In doing so, keepers working in captive breeding programs could be unwittingly releasing more back into the wild than they had planned. Top on the list of unintended releases are antibiotic resistance genes.  Continue reading “Caring and sharing: captive wallaby microbes share genes with keepers’ microbes”