Study: Pig farms in China producing antibiotic resistant genes

David Gray/Reuters"A pig farm on the outskirts of Beijing." - Source: International Herald Tribune
David Gray/Reuters
“A pig farm on the outskirts of Beijing.” – Source: International Herald Tribune

International Herald Tribune, the Global Edition of the New York Times published a report that compared antibiotic-fed, pig farm pigs to wild raised pigs from “pristine forests” sans antibiotics.

The article by author Didi Kirsten Tatlow explains:

A new study has found that high use of antibiotics in Chinese pig farms is producing antibiotic-resistant genes that pose “a potential worldwide human health risk.”

The “unchecked” use of antibiotics in Chinese farms poses risks that “may spread worldwide through manure and fertilizer run-off,” according to an article in The Conversation, a journal funded by more than a dozen Australian universities.

The article cited a study by eight scientists from China and the United States published in the journal PNAS, or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America.

The Chinese researchers, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and their colleagues from Michigan State University analyzed manure from three commercial pig farms in China. They compared the results to manure from pigs never fed antibiotics and soil from “a pristine forest,” also in China, the article said.

They found 149 “unique” antibiotic-resistant genes in the commercial farm manure, three times more than in the control samples.”

Tatlow quotes the authors of the study about the effects of the antibiotic resistant manure:

In the language of science: “Antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) are emerging contaminants posing a potential worldwide human health risk,” the researchers wrote in an abstract.

“Intensive animal husbandry is believed to be a major contributor to the increased environmental burden of ARGs. Despite the volume of antibiotics used in China, little information is available regarding the corresponding ARGs associated with animal farms,” they wrote.

How does it go global? The genes can be spread via microbes in manure, compost or the soil, as these enter rivers, leach into underground water, are transported by the wind or human travel, or in agricultural products such as gardening compost, they said.

Read the full article here.

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