Study Provides New Insights into Antibiotics and Pig Feeds

Study Provides New Insights into Antibiotics and Pig Feeds

ARS studies effects of conventional, in-feed antibiotics.

Antibiotics in pig feed increased the number of antibiotic resistance genes in gastrointestinal microbes in pigs, according to a study conducted by Michigan State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

Published in the current edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the comprehensive study focused on understanding the effects of conventional, in-feed antibiotics in U.S. farms.

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.

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 people and animals, said James Tiedje, an university distinguished professor of microbiology and molecular genetics and of crop and soil sciences at Michigan State.

According to the Michigan State announcement, some of the findings include:

  • Both diversity and abundance of antibiotic resistance genes increased in the intestinal microbial communities of the pigs treated with antibiotics. Longer-term studies are needed.
  • Some of the genes found in the treated pigs were unexpected and usually linked to antibiotics not used in the study.
  • Microbial genes associated with production and use of energy by microbes increased in abundance in the antibiotic-fed pigs, which may shed light on how antibiotics increase livestock growth and feed efficiency.

"To our knowledge, this study is the first of its kind to look at the collateral impacts of in-feed antibiotic use in farm animals, using a comprehensive approach to detect shifts in the function and the makeup or membership of the microbial community in the model animal's gastrointestinal tract," said Torey Looft, USDA researcher.

The study can be found HERE.

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