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Team tracks antibiotic resistance from swine farms to groundwater

by 5m Editor
22 August 2007, at 9:22am

US - A research team led by the University of Illonois has tracked the movement of tetracycline resistance genes from wastewater lagoons to groundwater at two Illinois hog farms.

The routine use of antibiotics in swine production can have unintended consequences. Red circles mark the locations of groundwater testing wells on Site A, the more impacted facility. The lagoon is unlined.
Photo: L. Brian Stauffer

In a new study, researchers at the University of Illinois report that some genes found in hog waste lagoons are transferred – “like batons” – from one bacterial species to another. The researchers found that this migration across species and into new environments sometimes dilutes – and sometimes amplifies – genes conferring antibiotic resistance.

The new report, in the August issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, tracks the passage of tetracycline resistance genes from hog waste lagoons into groundwater wells at two Illinois swine facilities.

This is the first study to take a broad sample of tetracycline resistance genes in a landscape dominated by hog farming, said principal investigator R.I. Mackie. And it is one of the first to survey the genes directly rather than focusing on the organisms that host them. Mackie is a professor in the department of animal sciences and an affiliate of the Institute for Genomic Biology.

“At this stage, we’re not really concerned about who’s got these genes,” Mackie said. “If the genes are there, potentially they can get into the right organism at the right time and confer resistance to an antibiotic that’s being used to treat disease.”

Tetracycline is widely used in swine production. It is injected into the animals to treat or prevent disease, and is often used as an additive in hog feed to boost the animals’ growth. Its near-continuous use in some hog farms promotes the evolution of tetracycline-resistant strains in the animals’ digestive tracts and manure.

The migration of antibiotic resistance from animal feeding operations into groundwater has broad implications for human and ecological health. There are roughly 238,000 animal feeding operations in the U.S., which collectively generate about 500 million tons of manure per year. Groundwater comprises about 40 percent of the public water supply, and more than 97 percent of the drinking water used in rural areas.

Source: Physorg.com

5m Editor