Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Environmental Scientists Find Antibiotics, Bacteria, Resistance Genes in Dust from Feedlots


After testing dust in the air near cattle feedlots in the Southern High Plains, researchers at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University found evidence of antibiotics, feedlot-derived bacteria and DNA sequences that encode for antibiotic resistance.

The study was published online today in the National Institutes of Environmental Science’s peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Health Perspectives. The research was funded through a grant from Texas Tech’s College of Arts and Sciences. It is the first study documenting aerial transmission of antibiotic resistance from an open-air farm setting.

Brett Blackwell

After testing dust in the air near cattle feedlots in the Southern High Plains, researchers at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University found evidence of antibiotics, feedlot-derived bacteria and DNA sequences that encode for antibiotic resistance.

Phil Smith, an associate professor of terrestrial ecotoxicology at the institute, said that while scientists couldn’t assess if the amounts of these materials were dangerous to human health, it helped explain a previously uncharacterized pathway by which antibiotic-resistant bacteria could travel long distances into places inhabited by humans.

The findings come weeks after a report commissioned by British Prime Minister David Cameron concluded that failure to battle drug-resistant infections and their causes could result in 10 million extra deaths a year by 2050 at a cost of $100 trillion to the global economy.

“You can look in the news, and people are raising red flags about antibiotic resistance all the time,” Smith said. “Microbes are pretty promiscuous with their genetic information, and they share it across species fairly easily. We know it’s there. We know what causes it, but we don’t have a really good handle on how it’s transmitted and how it moves in the environment. This is an attempt to provide better clarity on that issue.

“Everyone is fairly certain antibiotic resistance comes from extensive use of antibiotics in animal-based agriculture. About 70 percent of all antibiotics used are for animal agricultural purposes. Overuse contributes to antibiotic resistance. But how does it happen? How does it get from where the drugs are used into the human environment and natural environment?”

Smith said scientists collected air samples upwind and downwind of each feedlot. After analysis, they found greater amounts of bacteria, antibiotics and DNA sequences responsible for antibiotic resistance downwind of the feedlots compared to upwind, which helped scientists determine the source of the materials they found.

Because the antibiotics are present on the particulate matter with bacteria, the selective pressure for bacteria to retain their resistance remains during their flight, said Greg Mayer, an associate professor of molecular toxicology at the institute.

With wind blowing regularly on the Southern High Plains, the antibiotics and bacteria can travel on the dust and particulate matter far from the original starting point at the feedlot. Add the infamous West Texas dust storms into the picture, and these materials have the potential to travel hundreds of miles into cities and towns and possibly around the globe.

“I think implications for the spread of some feedlot-derived, antibiotic-resistant bacteria into urban areas is paramount to the research,” Mayer said. “Now, we haven’t yet taken samples from an urban area to determine whether bacteria from that particulate matter originated from feedlots or whether it still has antibiotic resistant bacteria on it. However, this study is proof of the principle that antibiotic-resistant bacteria could plausibly travel through the air.

“Further studies are now needed to show where the particulate matter is traveling and what is happening to its passengers when it gets there.”

For a copy of the report, visit 

Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at Texas Tech Today Media Resources or follow us on Twitter.

CONTACT: Phil Smith, associate professor of terrestrial ecotoxicology, The Institute of Environmental and Human Health, Texas Tech University, (806) 885-4567, or; Greg Mayer, associate professor of molecular toxicology, The Institute of Environmental and Human Health, Texas Tech University, (806) 885-4567, or

Contact Information
John Davis
Senior Editor, Science Writer
Phone: 806-742-2136

John Davis | newswise
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>