Author (Your Name)

E. McClure, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. Chemistry Dept.


Frank Fekete

Second Advisor

Kevin Rice


Bacterial isolates from natural sites with high toxic and heavy metal contamination more frequently contain determinants for resistance to antimicrobials. Natural strains were isolated from the ingesta and external slime of Salmo salar (Linnaeus, 1758) and Salvelinusjontinalis (Mitchell, 1814). Fish specimens were acquired from Casco Bay hatcheries, Casco, ME where there is no history of antibiotic use. Seventy-nine bacterial strains, including many well-documented salmonid commensals (an association from which the fish derives no benefit), were identified using 165 rRNA gene sequencing. Mercury resistant isolates were selected for initially on 25μM HgCI2. Strains were then grown at 20-24°C on Trypticase Soy Agar (TSA) plates containing 0-1000μM HgCl2 or 0-130μM Phenyl Mercuric Acetate (PMA). Mercury in the hatchery feed water due to ubiquitous non-point source deposition has selected for the mercury resistance observed in bacterial strains. Antibiotic resistance determinations, as measured by Minimum Inhibitory Concentration MIC) assays were performed on the 79 bacterial isolates using Sensititrel antimicrobial susceptibility panels. A positive linear correlation between the mercury (pMA and HgCl2) MIC's and antibiotic resistance for all observed strains was demonstrated. Conjugation experiments with Pseudomonas, Aeromonas, and Azomonas donors confirmed phenotypic transfer of penicillin and cephem resistances to Escherichia coli DH5a recipients. Conjugation experiments with Pseudomonas donors showed minimal transfer of tetracycline and minoglycoside resistances to Escherichia coli DH5a recipients. Our study suggests that the accumulation of antimicrobial resistances observed in these natural bacterial populations may be due to the indirect selective pressure exerted by environmental mercury.


Antibiotic Resistance, Mercury Resistance, Salmoninae