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Summary

Faecal carriage of Pseudomonas aeruginosa was investigated by selective plating and PCR identification test, among healthy captive snakes from zoological and private collections from France as well as from wild snakes from Guinea. P. aeruginosa faecal carriage among captive snakes was high (72 out of 83 individuals), but low among wild specimen (3 out of 23 individuals). Genetic diversity analyses of the isolates, based on SpeI-PFGE profiles, evidenced five dominant clones or clonal complexes spreading among snakes within a site and between sites and persisting over time. Similar clones or clonal complexes were detected from mouth swabs of the owners and from water and preys used to feed the snakes, evidencing various sources of snake colonization and the first cases of P. aeruginosa cross-contamination between snakes and owners. These observations led to the conclusion that P. aeruginosa behaves as an opportunistic species within snakes in captivity and that colonization and dissemination occurs consecutively to processes similar to those identified within the hospital. Antibiotic susceptibility testing showed that most isolates had a wild-type resistance profile except for one persistent clone isolated from both snakes and preys that harboured multiple antimicrobial resistance genes mediated by an integron carrying the qacH, aadB, aadA2 and cmlA10 cassettes, and a tetA(C)-carrying transposon. Biocides or antibiotics used in the zoological garden could have led to the acquisition of this integron.