Occurrence of Escherichia coli in Wildlife from Different Habitats of Sarawak, Malaysia

  • Lesley Maurice Bilung
  • Kho Kai Ling
  • Kasing Apun
  • Mohd Tajuddin Abdullah
  • Mustafa Abdul Rahman
  • Chen Yik Ming
  • Adom Benjamen
  • Yee Ling Chong
  • Hashimatul Fatma Hashim
Keywords: Escherichia coli, occurrence, Sarawak, wildlife


This study was carried out to assess the occurrence of Escherichia coli (E. coli) in the bats, birds and rodents as
representative of wildlife from different habitats in Sibu and Kapit, Sarawak, Malaysia. A total of 682 swab
samples were collected from wildlife hosts and screened for the bacteria E. coli and E. coli O157:H7 using
standard microbiological methods and molecular techniques. The overall occurrence rates of E. coli among these
hosts were 14%, 17% and 54% for bats, birds and rodents, respectively. The occurrence of E. coli was the
highest in rodents regardless of the habitats. Isolated E. coli were then screened for E. coli O157:H7 by using a
multiplex PCR with four primer pairs targeting for Shiga toxin producing genes (slt-I and slt-II), and the genes
involved in biosynthesis of O157 antigen (rfbE) and H7 antigen (fliCH7 ). slt-I, slt-II and rfbE genes were not
detected in any of the E. coli isolates. However, the gene encoding for H7 antigen was detected in 23 E. coli
isolates. This indicated that E. coli O157:H7 strain was not detected in the wildlife studied. Absence of E. coli
O157:H7 in the wildlife studied indicated these wild animals do not serve as an important reservoir of E. coli
O157:H7. However, precautions have to be taken as other group of pathogenic E. coli may pose a zoonotic risk
for humans and other animals.