Persistence of Culturable Antibiotic Resistant Fecal Coliforms From Manure Amended Vegetable Fields
Wind, Lauren Lee
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The reduced efficacy of antibiotics in treating common infections is one of the most pressing health concerns of the 21st Century. Increasing evidence links the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock production to the transfer of bacteria carrying antibiotic resistance genes to the broader environment. It is therefore critical to understand the persistence and dissemination of resistance in agricultural soils to understand potential threats to consumers. The goal of this large-scale agricultural field experiment was to identify the effects of crop (lettuce, radish) and fertilizer type (inorganic, compost, raw manure) on the incidence and persistence of antibiotic-resistant fecal coliforms, a common family of fecal indicator bacteria used to track the environmental spread of antibiotic resistance. Soil samples were collected eight times over a 120-day period and analyzed for fecal coliforms utlizing a suite of MacConkey agars supplemented with different antibiotics (ceftazidime, clindamycin, erythromycin, sulfamethoxazole, and tetracycline). Given the number of samples with resistant fecal coliform concentrations below the limit of detection, analyses to identify the effects of soil treatment and crop relied on Zero-inflated Poisson Regressions. Antibiotic-resistant culturable fecal coliforms were recoverable from soils across all treatments immediately following application, though persistence throughout the experiment varied by antibiotic. Sulfamethoxazole- and tetracycline-resistant fecal coliforms were nondetectable after Day 1; this was expected, as the cattle supplying the manure amendments were not treated with these antibiotics or similar analogs. Clindamycin- and erythromycin-resistant fecal coliforms were nondetectable after 42 days but rebounded on Day 90 in the soil; both of these drugs were of the same antibiotic class as the ones used to treat the dairy cattle during the manure collection period. Ceftazidime-resistant fecal coliform levels were consistently high throughout the duration of the growing season. No statistical differences were observed between root and aboveground crops. Results suggest that soils amended with raw or composted dairy manure are at risk of contamination with antibiotic resistant fecal coliforms; however, composting decreased the antibiotic resistant fecal coliform levels of the macrolide (erythromycin) and lincosamide (clindamycin) antibiotic classes administered to the dairy cattle (cephapirin and pirlimycin).
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