The house fly (Musca domestica L.) alimentary canal was evaluated for the potential of horizontal transfer of tetM on plasmid pCF10 among Enterococcus faecalis. Two sets of experiments were conducted: (1) house flies without surface sterilization and (2) surface-sterilized flies. Both sets of flies were exposed to E. faecalis OG1RF:pCF10 as donor for 12 h and then E. faecalis OG1SSp as recipient for 1 h. Another group of flies received the recipient first for 12 h followed by exposure to the donor strain for 1 h. House flies were screened daily to determine the donor, recipient, and transconjugant bacterial load for up to 5 days. In addition, the sponge-like mouth parts used for food uptake (labellum) of surface-sterilized house flies were removed and analyzed for donors, recipients, and transconjugants, separately. In both groups of flies (n = 90 flies/group), transfer occurred within 24 h after exposure with a transconjugant/donor rate from 8.6 × 10-5 to 4.5 × 101. Transconjugants were also isolated from the house fly labellum. Our data suggest that the house fly digestive tract provides a suitable environment for horizontal transfer of conjugative plasmids and antibiotic resistance genes among enterococci. Our results emphasize the importance of this insect as a potential vector of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We would like to thank Kent E. Hampton for providing the house fly pupae. This project was funded by USDA-NRI grant no. 2005-35302-16340 (to LZ and HH) and USDA Animal Health Grant, KSU (to LZ and HH). This is contribution no. 09-327-J from the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station.