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Study Finds Antibiotics Fed to Swine in Groundwater

by 5m Editor
14 September 2007, at 11:03am

US - A recent study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has linked the routine use of the antibiotic tetracycline, popular in swine production, to the presence of antibiotics resistance genes in groundwater.

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"When it comes to resistance, bacteria are promiscuous. They easily swap the genes that make them impervious to antibiotics, making the threat very real that eventually bugs causing infections in humans will be the ones resistant to treatment,"

David Wallinga, M.D., director of the Food and Health Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

The study, published the latest issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, determined that the genes themselves "move" through populations of different species of bacteria. The findings were among the first to track antibiotic resistance genes rather than the organisms that host them.

The researchers found that these genes are transferred "like batons" from one bacterial species to another, a conclusion that has serious implications for antibiotics used to treat human disease. Tetracycline family antibiotics are given to pigs, typically as a feed additive to increase growth rate. But, as the research team concluded, tetracycline resistance genes could lead to resistance to similar antibiotics important to human medicine.

In humans, tetracyclines are used to treat a wide variety of serious infections such as anthrax, chlamydia and urinary tract infections, Lyme┬╣s Disease and other diseases transmitted by ticks.

"When it comes to resistance, bacteria are promiscuous. They easily swap the genes that make them impervious to antibiotics, making the threat very real that eventually bugs causing infections in humans will be the ones resistant to treatment," said David Wallinga, M.D., director of the Food and Health Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

5m Editor