A recent study has investigated the movement of antibiotic resistance genes between farm animals, soil and water in Finland. The results show that many of these genes are spread from animals to the soil through manure application; however, these genes do not appear to persist in soil. The study suggests that practices that minimise the use of antibiotics, as used in Finland, may lead to lower levels of clinically relevant resistance genes in agricultural soils.
2017 Study Abstract
The co-occurrence of antibiotic-resistance genes (ARGs) and mobile genetic elements (MGEs) in farm environments can potentially foster the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. We studied the resistome of Finnish dairy and swine farms where use of antibiotics is limited to treating bacterial infections and manure is only applied from April to September. The resistome of manure, soil, and tile drainage water from the ditch was investigated from the beginning of the growing season until forage harvest. The relative ARG and MGE abundance was measured using a qPCR array with 363 primer pairs. Manure samples had the highest abundance of ARGs and MGEs, which increased during storage. Immediately following land application, the ARGs abundant in manure were detected in soil, but their abundance decreased over time with many becoming undetectable. This suggests that increases in ARG abundances after fertilizing are temporary and occur annually under agricultural practices that restrict antibiotic use. A few of the ARGs were detected in the ditch water, but most of them were undetected in the manure. Our results document the dissipation and dissemination off farm of ARGs under Finnish limited antibiotic use and suggest that such practices could help reduce the load of antibiotic-resistance genes in the environment.