A STUDY by a PhD student at the University of New England (UNE) could have major implications for the way feedlots are set up, after discovering current practices could be contributing to poor human health.
Analysis by Fadhel Abbas found farm soils on which feedlot manure had been spread had a much higher chance of carrying antibiotic resistant bacteria, compared to untreated soils.
This bacteria can have significant and negative impacts on the health of both humans and animals.
It can be transferred to humans via the skin, inhalation, or through plants, and UNE microbiologist Dr Gal Winter said the study supports a growing school of thought within the scientific community.
"This particular research just adds weight to a growing understanding that we have," she said.
"And the notion of a concept that is called 'one health', and this is something that is very acknowledges on a global level that you can't discriminated between the health of animals and health of humans.
"We are all connected, we're all part of the same system. We treat animals with the same antibiotics that we treat people with, and the bacteria adapt to it and they build a resistance."
She believes the results will lead to further adoption of the 'antibiotic stewardship' movement.
Another of Mr Abbas's UNE supervisors, Dr Nick Andronicos, said the potential for feedlot manure to contribute to human antibiotic resistance is compounded by the use of the same classes of antibiotic for humans and animals.
"If we used different classes of antibiotics in feedlots to those we use in human health, then the growth of antibiotic resistance might be slowed," he said.
"At the moment, that's not the case."
"Animals living in a limited area such as a feedlot yard enhance the transmission of bacteria via direct contact among animals or through the ingestion of polluted food and water in faeces, and thus encourage the establishment of new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their products, especially manure."
Fresh, treated manure was also more likely to carry antibiotic resistant bacteria that manure that had been stored for five months or longer.
Dr Winter believes this is likely due to anti-microbial effects like sunlight, high temperatures, acidity, and moisture.
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