Antibiotic use on farms helps to treat illnesses in livestock, reducing mortality rates and keeping livestock healthy. However, there is a growing concern that the use of antibiotics produces resistant bacteria. Dr. Xu Li, an associate professor in the University of Nebraska Department of Civil Engineering, is leading a team of researchers to develop manure management strategies to mitigate the risk of antibiotic resistance associated with livestock manure.
The four year, $1.2 million project is a part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. It addresses the USDA’s Food Safety challenge area, which works to reduce foodborne illnesses and deaths by improving the safety of the food supply. The research team will be looking specifically at antibiotic resistance genes in manure as they move through the beef cattle manure management system.
“Antibiotic resistance genes can travel between cells in several ways,” said Li. “If the resistance genes are acquired by human pathogens, this could become a major public health problem.”
Using the facilities at the Agricultural Research and Development Center, the research team will be assessing the movement of antibiotic resistance genes from livestock to soil through manure to determine best practices for eliminating bacteria that resist antibiotics. The project will develop a quantitative microbial risk assessment model focusing on the interventions at three control points: pen floor surfaces, manure stockpiles, and soil following manure application.
“We will search for existing and develop new low cost manure handling methods that can mitigate the spread of antibiotic resistance genes,” said Li.
The project will also promote extension and education opportunities. Workshops, webinars and printed publications will be prepared to disseminate research findings to stakeholders. The research will also be incorporated into course materials at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Hawaii.
The team is composed of Dr. Li and Dr. Shannon Bartelt-Hunt of the University of Nebraska Department of Civil Engineering, Dr. Bing Wang of the Food Science department, Dr. Amy Schmidt of Biological Systems Engineering, Dr. Galen Erickson of Animal Science, and Dr. Tao Yan of the University of Hawaii’s Civil and Environmental Engineering department. Members of the project’s advisory board are from University of Nebraska, George Washington University, Purdue University and the Nebraska Cattleman Association.
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