Goose poop could be superbug soup, researchers caution

US - They may be lovely to look at. But Canada geese are generally considered pests, walking feces factories that take over parks and ponds, leaving a slick of guano in their wake.

A new study suggests the problem may be more than cosmetic. Canada geese can pick up and shed antibiotic-resistant pathogens, potentially making them an effective winged delivery network for so-called superbugs.

Experts aren't ready to call out the troops. But they say the research, to be published in the June issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, highlights a way of spreading antibiotic-resistant organisms that hasn't been previously studied.

"If you have a multidrug-resistant salmonella being shed by a horse in Georgia, and a goose happens to eat in that pasture and then fly up to Kentucky or Ontario, then maybe you can get quick dissemination of these bugs," says Dr. Scott Weese, a veterinarian who specializes in antimicrobial resistance at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph.

The non-migratory flocks -- from Georgia and North Carolina -- had habitats representing different types of land use: recreational (a park), agricultural and industrial.

One of the North Carolina flocks had a disturbing habit of loitering by a swine waste lagoon. Pig farms, like other livestock-rearing operations, can use high levels of antibiotics to tamp down diseases.

calendar icon 29 April 2005
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