Healthscout:"Antibiotic Resistance...." 
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 Healthscout:"Antibiotic Resistance...."


Thursday May 24 03:03 AM EDT

Antibiotic Resistance Takes Form on the Farm

By Fran Berger
HealthScoutNews Reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 23 (HealthScoutNews) -- One reason antibiotics are losing the
power to fight human diseases may be found down on the farm, says a new

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have traced
antibiotic-resistant genes from pig farms to groundwater, suggesting that
resistance is being built up through the">food chain. The discovery raises
concerns because antibiotics are widely used to fatten livestock and prevent
disease in the animals in the United States.

"The genes are found in bacteria, and the tetracycline-resistant genes in
the bacteria travel into the groundwater, where the horizontal transfer of
the genes occur," says lead study author Rustam I. Aminov, a microbiologist
and visiting professor of animal science.

"The resistant genes get into the ground and drinking water and will find
their way into the guts of people, animals and wildlife, passing on the
resistance in a continuous gene cycle," he says.

The research team analyzed water samples from lagoons, wells and groundwater
on and near two Illinois pig farms, and through a DNA-amplification
technique, identified the trail taken by the resistant genes.

The amplification process, called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR), rapidly
duplicates DNA, allowing experts to identify a gene's unique fingerprint.

"These [antibiotic resistant] genes were found to be pre{*filter*} in the
gastrointestinal tracts of pigs and steers" and suggested the flow of the
genes to the water came directly from the animals, say researchers.

"This work is still in its infancy," and it's too early to draw any
conclusions based on this study, says Kammy Johnson, an epidemiologist with
the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (news - web sites). "But it's exciting to see the
technology that's being developed to look at this problem."

With PCR, it "may be plausible to fill in all of those blanks in those basic
questions. It's changed the way we think of infectious processes and is
going to have great promise to track pathogens throughout the
environment," Johnson says.

Aminov says the process by which antibiotic resistance may be passed along
"is really poorly understood." In another investigation, he says researchers
are looking at the disposal of livestock waste products, which may be
returned to the ground in forms of manure.

From there, antibiotic resistance may transfer to corn or soybeans, as
either livestock feed or consumer product, says Aminov.

He says antibiotics to make farm animals bigger has been banned in Sweden
since the l980s, and the European Union (news - web sites) is currently
phasing out the practice.

Aminov says 21 antibiotics now are "administered to swine for growth
promotion or prophylaxis, and we studied only one class of the gene. He says
the problem is of particular concern in rural areas where people use
untreated well water, which they assume is very clean.

"There is a race for profit because agricultural [work] is so low profit,
and many depend on antibiotics to survive," but using antibiotics to fatten
animals or prevent disease may make the {*filter*} useless in fighting human
disease, he says.

"We have to preserve antibiotics for other purposes," says Aminov.

The study is published in last month's issue of Applied and Environmental

Mon, 10 Nov 2003 23:47:55 GMT
 [ 1 post ] 

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