The Effect of Thermophilic Anaerobic Digestion on Ceftiofur and Antibiotic Resistant Gene Concentrations in Dairy Manure


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Virginia Tech


The prevalence of antibiotics on farms for therapeutic and prophylactic use in animals can cause negative effects on biomethane production during anaerobic digestion. Previous literature has found decreased biomethane production rates from a variety of antibiotics, but biogas inhibition differs between studies of continuous and batch reactors and the type of antibiotic studied. Cephalosporin drugs are the most common antibiotic class used to treat mastitis in dairy cows and can retain most of their bioactivity after excretion. Ceftiofur is a commonly used cephalosporin drug but no previous study investigating the effect of Ceftiofur on biomethane during continuous anaerobic digestion has been performed.

The aim of this study was to examine the effect on biomethane production when manure from cows treated with Ceftiofur was anaerobically digested. Laboratory sized anaerobic digesters (AD) were run at thermophilic (55°C) temperatures and a 10 day hydraulic retention time. Manure from cows treated with Ceftiofur were fed to the antibiotic treatment reactors for 50 days. The reactor performance was measured by i) biomethane production, ii) waste stabilization in terms of solids and chemical oxygen demand, iii) change in mass of Ceftiofur and iv) change in concentration of antibiotic resistant genes, specifically cfx(A), mef(A), and tet(Q). There was statistically significant decrease in cumulative gas production due to the addition of Ceftiofur into the reactors, but no significant difference between treatments in waste stabilization in terms of percent volatile solids (VS) and total chemical oxygen demand (TCOD) reduction. Anaerobic digestion decreased the amount of Ceftiofur in manure, and the amount of Ceftiofur in the reactors reduced over the time of the experiment. Change in antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs) were gene dependent over time. Concentrations of tet(Q) reduced significantly between feed and effluent of both treatments, and cfx(A) reduced significantly for the control treatment but not the Ceftiofur treatment. Concentrations of mef(A) increased over time in both treatments. Overall, the addition of Ceftiofur in continuously operated anaerobic digesters negatively affected biomethane production, a value-added product responsible for on-farm renewable energy. However, anaerobic digestion does decrease the mass of Ceftiofur within manure, thereby reducing the environmental loading from run-off from farms.



dairy manure, anaerobic digestion, antibiotics, Ceftiofur, antibiotic resistant genes, value-added products, biomethane, renewable energy, antibiotic resistance