Metagenomic Analysis of Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Dairy Cow Feces following Therapeutic Administration of Third Generation Cephalosporin
Knowlton, Katharine F.
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Although dairy manure is widely applied to land, it is relatively understudied compared to other livestock as a potential source of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) to the environment and ultimately to human pathogens. Ceftiofur, the most widely used antibiotic used in U.S. dairy cows, is a 3rd generation cephalosporin, a critically important class of antibiotics to human health. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of typical ceftiofur antibiotic treatment on the prevalence of ARGs in the fecal microbiome of dairy cows using a metagenomics approach. β-lactam ARGs were found to be elevated in feces from Holstein cows administered ceftiofur (n = 3) relative to control cows (n = 3). However, total numbers of ARGs across all classes were not measurably affected by ceftiofur treatment, likely because of dominance of unaffected tetracycline ARGs in the metagenomics libraries. Functional analysis via MG-RAST further revealed that ceftiofur treatment resulted in increases in gene sequences associated with “phages, prophages, transposable elements, and plasmids”, suggesting that this treatment also enriched the ability to horizontally transfer ARGs. Additional functional shifts were noted with ceftiofur treatment (e.g., increase in genes associated with stress, chemotaxis, and resistance to toxic compounds; decrease in genes associated with metabolism of aromatic compounds and cell division and cell cycle), along with measureable taxonomic shifts (increase in Bacterioidia and decrease in Actinobacteria). This study demonstrates that ceftiofur has a broad, measureable and immediate effect on the cow fecal metagenome. Given the importance of 3rd generation cephalospirins to human medicine, their continued use in dairy cattle should be carefully considered and waste treatment strategies to slow ARG dissemination from dairy cattle manure should be explored.