Battling antibiotic resistance
For decades, many producers of pigs, chickens, and other farm animals have used antibiotics not only to protect their livestock from disease but also to boost growth rates and enhance feed efficiency, a measure of how well animals convert feed into weight gains.
A recent study conducted by MSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service found antibiotics in pig feed increased the number of antibiotic-resistant genes in gastrointestinal microbes in pigs.
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the comprehensive study focused on understanding the effects of conventional, in-feed antibiotics in U.S. farms.
Scientists don’t know precisely how antibiotics enhance growth rates and feed efficiency, but they are concerned that on-farm use of these medications may contribute to the development of strains of microbes resistant to conventional antibiotics, which are potentially harmful to humans and animals, says James Tiedje, an AgBioResearch scientist.
“The growth of antibiotic resistance in pathogens is a huge challenge for society around the world,” says Tiedje, University Distinguished Professor of microbiology and molecular genetics and of crop and soil sciences at MSU. “Studies to understand what contributes to the spread and what interventions can help control the problem are vital.”
Learn more about MSU’s study on antibiotics in pig feed.