August 11, 2011 Study Shows Potential to Reduce Antibiotic Resistance
Removing antibiotic use from large-scale U.S. poultry farms can result in immediate and significant reductions in antibiotic resistance for some bacteria. This, according to researchers involved in a University of Maryland study published today in Environmental Health Perspectives. It is the first study to demonstrate lower levels of drug-resistant bacteria on newly organic farms in the United States.
“We initially thought we would see some differences in on-farm levels of antibiotic-resistant enterococci when poultry farms transitioned to organic practices. But we were surprised to see that the differences were so significant across several different classes of antibiotics even in the very first flock of birds that was produced after the transition to organic standards,” explained Amy R. Sapkota, an assistant professor with the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health.
The researchers studied 10 conventional and 10 newly organic large-scale poultry houses in the mid-Atlantic region. They tested for the presence of enterococci bacteria (microorganisms are found in all poultry, including poultry on both organic and conventional farms) in poultry litter, feed, and water, and tested its resistance to 17 common antimicrobials.
They found that although 84 percent of Enterococcus faecium from conventional farms was multi-drug resistant, just 17 percent of those from newly organic farms was.
“While we know that the dynamics of antibiotic resistance differ by bacterium and antibiotic, these findings show that, at least in the case of enterococci, we begin to reverse resistance on farms even among the first group of animals that are grown without antibiotics,” Sapkota said.
While little protocol information was given, this is interesting from a public health stand-point has could change the market by focusing consumer demand for meat that could limit risk to families.