Impact of manure fertilization on the abundance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and frequency of detection of antibiotic resistance genes in soil, and on vegetables at harvest.

Romain, M., Scott, A., Tien, Y.C., Murray, R.L., Sabourin, L., Zhang, Y., Zhang, Y., and Topp, E. (2013). "Impact of manure fertilization on the abundance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and frequency of detection of antibiotic resistance genes in soil, and on vegetables at harvest.", Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 79, pp. 5701-5709. doi : 10.1128/AEM.01682-13  Access to full text

Abstract

Consumption of vegetables represents a route of direct human exposure to bacteria found in soil. The present study evaluated the complement of bacteria resistant to various antibiotics on vegetables often eaten raw (tomato, cucumber, pepper, carrot, radish, lettuce) and how this might vary with growth in soil fertilized inorganically or with dairy or swine manure. Vegetables were sown into field plots immediately following fertilization and harvested when of marketable quality. Vegetable and soil samples were evaluated for viable antibiotic-resistant bacteria by plate count on Chromocult medium supplemented with antibiotics at clinical breakpoint concentrations. DNA was extracted from soil and vegetables and evaluated by PCR for the presence of 46 gene targets associated with plasmid incompatibility groups, integrons, or antibiotic resistance genes. Soil receiving manure was enriched in antibiotic-resistant bacteria and various antibiotic resistance determinants. There was no coherent corresponding increase in the abundance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria enumerated from any vegetable grown in manure-fertilized soil. Numerous antibiotic resistance determinants were detected in DNA extracted from vegetables grown in unmanured soil. A smaller number of determinants were additionally detected on vegetables grown only in manured and not in unmanured soil. Overall, consumption of raw vegetables represents a route of human exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and resistance determinants naturally present in soil. However, the detection of some determinants on vegetables grown only in freshly manured soil reinforces the advisability of pretreating manure through composting or other stabilization processes or mandating offset times between manuring and harvesting vegetables for human consumption.

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