Animal manure from modern animal agriculture constitutes the single largest source of antibiotic resistance (AR) owing to the use of large quantities of antibiotics. After animal manure enters the environment, the AR disseminates into the environment and can pose a potentially serious threat to the health and well-being of both humans and animals. In this study, we evaluated the efficiency of three different on-farm waste treatment systems in reducing AR. Three classes of erythromycin resistance genes (erm) genes (B, F, and X) conferring resistances to macrolide-lincosamides-streptogramin B (MLSB) and one class of tetracycline resistance genes (tet) gene (G) conferring resistance to tetracyclines were used as models. Real-time polymerase chain reaction assays were used to determine the reservoir sizes of these AR genes present in the entire microbiome. These classes of AR genes varied considerably in abundance, with erm(B) being more predominant than erm(F), erm(X), and tet(G). These AR genes also varied in persistence in different waste treatment systems. Aerobic biofiltration reduced erm(X) more effectively than other AR genes, while mesophilic anaerobic digestion and lagoon storage did not appreciably reduce any of these AR genes. Unlike chemical pollutants, some AR genes could increase after reduction in a preceding stage of the treatment processes. Season might also affect the persistence of AR. These results indicate that AR arising from swine-feeding operations can survive typical swine waste treatment processes and thus treatments that are more effective in destructing AR on farms are required.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The work was partially supported by a USDA-CSREES award (Z.Y. and M.M., 2003-45050-01616) as well as by an OARDC SEED award (Z.Y. and F.M., 2005-OHOA1188).