January 10, 2019

Sally Bornbusch (Duke University)

The discovery and production of antibiotics has been integral to modern medicine.
From treating human illnesses and boosting agricultural gains to caring for animals, antibiotics are an
enormously beneficial tool. Recently, however, the overuse of man-made antibiotics has caused the
rapid evolution and spread of harmful antibiotic resistance (ABR). Bacteria with ABR are able to resist
the effects of antibiotics, resulting in dangerous bacterial infections, particularly in humans and crops.
Due to a combination of (a) pervasive antibiotic use, (b) antibiotic-contaminated run-off from
agricultural and urban areas, and (c) the ability of ABR to spread easily within bacterial communities,
ABR can now be found in almost every corner of the world. This ‘resistance crisis’ is one of the most
dangerous threats to global health and food security. Despite the known consequences of ABR for
human health and society, the risks of ABR exposure for animals and their environments remain
relatively unknown. By sampling populations of captive and wild ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) with
varying degrees of ABR exposure (i.e. via antibiotic treatment in captivity to environmental
contamination in the wild), as well as their environments, I aim to examine if ABR in animals reflects
ABR in their environments and if increasing ABR influences animal gut health. My ultimate goal is to
examine whether ABR as an environmental contaminant poses a threat to wildlife populations.
Furthermore, expanding our studies of the effects of ABR to wild non-human primates and natural
ecosystems will be vital in combatting the global resistance crisis.