Latest research suggests that Texas cattle ranches could be the source of antibiotic resistant bacteria, which are becoming airborne. Particulate matter samples collected downwind from cattle ranches were examined by the researchers from Texas Tech University. Antibiotic resistant bacteria have been found in the samples and the investigators are worried that wind could carry these to populated areas. This could hinder the treatment of potentially dangerous diseases. The study has been detailed in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. In the United States, more than 80 percent of all antibiotics are used in cattle to improve yields and lengthen lives.
The researchers have examined 10 ranches, located within 200 miles of the city of Lubbock, and the samples were collected over a period of six months. The feedlots in the South Plains and Panhandle of Texas were the main focus of the study. At these facilities, cattle are exposed to huge quantities of antibiotics. Environmental toxicology researchers at Texas Tech University stated “To our knowledge, this study is among the first to detect and quantify antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant genes … associated with airborne PM emitted from beef cattle feed yards.”
About 2 million Americans get infected by bacteria, resistant to vast range of antibiotics, each year and among them 23,000 die of the resulting diseases. The study also highlighted that the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria is often correlated with the use of drugs in commercial cattle stocks. The Food and Drug Administration, in 2013, had announced new guidelines for reducing the use of antibiotics in cattle.
Specially designed vacuum was used to collect samples. Downwind locations from the feedlots had 4,000 percent higher concentration of bacteria, containing antibiotic-resistant genes, as compared to upwind locations. Smith of Texas Tech University commented “We believe that this bacteria could remain active for a long period of time and, given the wind that we have around Lubbock, it could be traveling for long distances.”