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Open AccessArticle

The Isolation and Identification of Bacteria on Feathers of Migratory Bird Species

Department of Biology, University of Naples Federico II, Complesso Universitario di Monte S. Angelo, Via Cinthia ed. 7, 80126 Napoli (NA), Italy
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Istituto di Biologia Agroambientale e Forestale, Via Salaria km 29, 300, 00015 Monterotondo (RM), Italy
Associazione per la Ricerca, la Divulgazione e l’Educazione Ambientale (ARDEA), Via Ventilabro 6, 80126 Napoli (NA), Italy
Freshwater Science Group; Dipartimento di Scienze Biologiche, Geologiche ed Ambientali (BiGeA); Alma Mater Studiorum—Università di Bologna, Via Selmi 3, 40126 Bologna (BO), Italy
Hydrosynergy S.C.—Environmental Monitoring and Applied Ecology, Via Roma 11, 40068 San Lazzaro di Savena (BO), Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Microorganisms 2018, 6(4), 124;
Received: 22 September 2018 / Revised: 27 November 2018 / Accepted: 4 December 2018 / Published: 5 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Environmental Microbiology)
Worldwide, bacteria are the most ubiquitous microorganisms, and it has been extensively demonstrated that migratory wild birds can increase bacterial global scale dispersion through long-distance migration and dispersal. The microbial community hosted by wild birds can be highly diverse, including pathogenic strains that can contribute to infections and disease spread. This study focused on feather and plumage bacteria within bird microbial communities. Samples were collected during ornithological activities in a bird ringing station. Bacterial identification was carried out via DNA barcoding of the partial 16S rRNA gene. Thirty-seven isolates of bacteria were identified on the chest feathers of 60 migratory birds belonging to three trans-Saharan species: Muscicapa striata, Hippolais icterina, and Sylvia borin. Our results demonstrate the possibility of bacterial transfer, including pathogens, through bird migration between very distant countries. The data from the analysis of plumage bacteria can aid in the explanation of phenomena such as migratory birds’ fitness or the development of secondary sexual traits. Moreover, these results have deep hygienic–sanitary implications, since many bird species have synanthropic behaviors during their migration that increase the probability of disease spread. View Full-Text
Keywords: 16S rDNA; end-point PCR; migratory birds; bacteria; feathers; risk 16S rDNA; end-point PCR; migratory birds; bacteria; feathers; risk
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Giorgio, A.; De Bonis, S.; Balestrieri, R.; Rossi, G.; Guida, M. The Isolation and Identification of Bacteria on Feathers of Migratory Bird Species. Microorganisms 2018, 6, 124.

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