Antibiotic use in food animals and its effect on antimicrobial resistance spread and human health

Most people alive today have never known a world without antibiotics. Antibiotics became widely used to treat bacterial infections in the 1930s and ‘40s, and were quickly labeled a “miracle drug”. But, as the widespread use of antibiotics evolved, so did the discovery of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And we have now entered an era where antibiotic resistance is considered one of the biggest worldwide public health challenges of our time.

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We can learn a lot from poop

A summary of Using sewage for surveillance of antimicrobial resistance by Aarestrup and Woolhouse (2020)

Key Points

  • Sewage-based surveillance for antimicrobial resistance provides a flexible, scalable, and quickly implementable AMR tracking method.
  • Advances in DNA sequencing enable faster and more responsive resistance monitoring, which is essential to address AMR surveillance worldwide.

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Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria in Surface Water Bodies

Antimicrobial resistance is a challenge that many face today in the agricultural field. As antibiotics and supplements are given to farm animals and their manure applied to crops and pasture, microbes are demonstrating resistance to antibiotics in agricultural settings. These bacteria have also been found residing in surface water bodies after being influenced by agriculture or animal production. These highly resistant bacteria have caused problems for human health with exposure to these bacteria.

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The growth of antibiotic resistance has become a serious threat to human health

A brief summary of the manuscript, Update on the Antibiotic Crisis by Rossolini et al. (2014)

Key Points:

  • Developing new antibiotics is only a stop-gap solution to a growing antibiotic resistance crisis.
  • Drugs able to treat the newest strains of resistant bacteria are still years away, while resistance continues to spread.

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Composting can reduce antimicrobial resistance in manure

A brief summary of the manuscript, Dissipation of Antimicrobial Resistance Determinants in Composted and Stockpiled Beef Cattle Manure by Xu et al. (2016)

Key Points:

  • Composting manure can reduce pathogen presence and antimicrobial residues in manure.
  • Composting efficacy in reducing antimicrobial residues in manure is associated with elevated temperatures within the composting process.
  • Stockpiling manure marginally reduce pathogen presence and antimicrobial residues in manure when compared to composting.

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Application of organic fertilizers increases antibiotics in soil

A brief summary of the manuscript, Use of commercial organic fertilizer increases the abundance of antibiotic resistance genes and antibiotics in soil by Zhou et al. (2016)

Key Points:

  • Residual antibiotics can persist in soil for months following the application of manure-based, commercial organic fertilizers.
  • Antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic residues decreased significantly over the first 60 days following fertilizer application but did not return to background levels until four months after application.

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Antibiotic resistance higher in environments impacted by human or animal waste.

A brief summary of the manuscript, Antimicrobial-resistant bacterial populations and antimicrobial resistance genes obtained from environments impacted by livestock and municipal waste (Agga et al., 2015)

Key Points

  • Antibiotic resistance is naturally occurring in almost any environment, making it difficult to determine what is the true human health risk associated with any change in environmental bacterial populations or genes.
  • This study found higher concentrations of resistant bacteria in both treated municipal wastewater and livestock wastes than are naturally present in soil or water.
  • Municipal wastewater samples contained a wider variety of antibiotic-resistant genes than were present in livestock wastes.

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Fate of antibiotic resistant bacteria and genes in manure storage

Manure storage and its application on cropland may contribute a form of environmental contamination: antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. These bacteria in manure are perceived to cause diseases in humans through environmental contamination. However, a recent study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln feedlots near Mead, Nebraska concluded that long-term manure storage as static stockpiles has the advantage of inactivating antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, and it has the potential to reduce antimicrobial resistance genes. Continue reading “Fate of antibiotic resistant bacteria and genes in manure storage”

How do you like your steak?

People worry, and I am no exception. I spend more time than I would like to admit on social media, and I have seen some things, disturbing things, things that cannot be unseen. Turns out there is a lot out there to be worried about; so how do I know I am worried the right amount and not too much? For example, I know that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a serious and growing health problem, but what does that mean for me? I want to know which aspects of the AMR crisis are going to impact me, which I do not have to worry about, and what I or others can do about it. The first thing I want to know more about is meat safety. I have seen the labels about “antibiotic-free meat”, and I want to know – how safe is my burger? So, I got in contact with some folks who really know meat to find out. Continue reading “How do you like your steak?”

Antimicrobial Resistance Resource Library

Antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) infections are a serious threat to global public health. Each year AMR accounts for roughly 700,000 deaths worldwide. While AMR-related research is ongoing, conveying research-based knowledge about AMR mechanisms, risks, and opportunities to improve outcomes to the general public, agricultural producers, food safety experts, educators, and consumers is imperative.

The iAMResponsible Project team, a nationwide extension effort for addressing AMR, has developed a shared resource library to curate and translate the latest news and research findings on AMR for a non-technical audience. This library is designed to provide educators and advisors with access to resources that will assist you in your discussion of antimicrobial resistance.  Please feel free to share and re-purpose educational products in this library with local audiences. Continue reading “Antimicrobial Resistance Resource Library”