Farm Antibiotics And Superbugs Threaten Public Health But Also Our Ecosystem


Intensifying livestock production to meet the demands of a growing global population coincides with increases in both the administration of veterinary antibiotics and manure inputs to soils. These trends have the potential to increase antibiotic resistance in soil microbial communities.

Almost 80% Of Antibiotics Sold In The Us Go To Farms

And livestock expel a significant amount of the medicines they ingest, but also, with them, drug-resistant organisms..

Antibiotic resistant bacteria can spread through soil and water and be carried by farm workers to other environments. The presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria at farm level poses a risk to society as a whole.

Environmental Impacts

According to a report in Proceedings of the Royal Society B., overuse of antibiotics, and therefore, the increase of resistant bacteria not only has human health implications but may also have substantial environmental impacts.

The authors compared soil microbial communities from paired reference and dairy manure-exposed sites across the USA. They found that bacterial and fungal communities differed between reference and manure-exposed sites.


The researchers used genetic sequencing to identify the bacteria in each soil sample, as well as genes that make microbes resistant to antibiotics.

The researchers tested the activity of the microbes, by studying the quantity of carbon they released from respiration.

When the researchers spiked soil samples in the lab with more antibiotics, to simulate the amount of drugs expelled by animals with their excrements, the bacteria in the soil went into metabolic action. Microbial mass-specific respiration increased 2.1-fold under manure exposure.

These findings highlights that antibiotic additions to soil (through cattle manure application) have the potential to alter soil function in important ways, particularly as related to carbon cycling. [Source]



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