Scientists have found bacteria in lemurs that are resistant to antibiotics. Moreover, most often these microorganisms are found inside animals that live near humans.

Scientists from Duke University have found evidence of bacterial resistance to antibiotics in the microbiome of lemurs living near humans. To do this, the research team took samples of ring-tailed lemur droppings and sequenced the genes of all microbes found there in search of genetic markers of antibiotic resistance.

The study compared ten populations of lemurs: seven wild populations in Madagascar, two from research centers – the Lemur Rescue Center in Madagascar and the Duke Lemur Center in the United States. The sample also included a group of lemurs kept in Madagascar as pets.

In wild animals, the average proportion of resistance genes in gut microbiomes was close to zero. But in animals from research institutions, this proportion was 25 times higher than in wild lemurs. In domestic lemurs, this proportion was almost 35 times higher.

Ring-tailed lemurs are omnivorous. At home, they are often in constant contact with people, sitting on the shoulders of the hosts or in the hands of tourists, who often take pictures with them. The researchers note that this physical and social environment clearly contributes to antibiotic resistance in domestic lemurs.

“Bacteria can be found not only inside us, but also on our skin, furniture, food and water. They are everywhere and always, and are easily transmitted from one environment to another, ”the scientists noted.

Among wild lemurs, antibiotic resistance varied with levels of human activity. Animals from areas affected by grazing, farming or tourism contained more antibiotic-resistant microbes than animals from pristine environments, but still much less than lemurs living in close proximity to humans.