Scientist studies how cattle acquire resistant bacteriaScientist studies how cattle acquire resistant bacteria
A University of Florida scientist will try to figure out how antibiotic-resistant microorganisms get into cattle.
May 9, 2015
A UNIVERSITY of Florida scientist will try to figure out how antibiotic-resistant microorganisms get into cattle.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food & Agriculture has awarded K.C. Jeong $2.19 million to study the question of how cattle gain antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences.
About 23,000 people die annually due to pathogens because some don't respond to antibiotics, said Jeong, an assistant professor of animal sciences and a faculty member with the university's Emerging Pathogens Institute.
Researchers believe the overuse of antibiotics has led to resistant strains of bacteria. However, there may be reasons beyond the overuse of antibiotics, Jeong said, citing the grass cattle eat, the water they drink and other factors as possible sources of resistant bacteria. Jeong said scientists simply don't know the pathogens' origins.
Jeong is particularly interested in tracing how microbes — specifically the extended-spectrum b-lactamase-producing bacteria (ESBLs) — move throughout grass-fed, pre-feedlot cattle. He will investigate the source of the microbes in soil and plants by determining contributions from genetics, physiological factors, animal husbandry and other possibilities.
"By understanding the source, occurrence and migration of ESBLs into cattle, we can bring up new ideas to reduce these life-threatening pathogens in cattle that will result in enhanced food safety and fewer victims of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms," Jeong said. "Our long-term goal is to help mitigate antibiotic resistance in farm animals."
Much of the research so far has focused on feedlots, but Jeong said his team will study cow/calf operations and more. The team will study cattle in northern Florida during the next three years.
Florida cow/calf operations provide ideal study settings to look at all possible factors that may affect the occurrence of ESBLs, according to Jeong. Researchers will examine the gastrointestinal tracts of cows and calves grown in 20 midsize farms to identify factors that significantly affect the occurrence of ESBLs.
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