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New antimicrobial resistance research

New antimicrobial resistance research

Recent research from Alberta shows antibiotic use in cattle is not related to antimicrobial resistance in humans

Staff Writer

A recent study, published in the academic journal Scientific Reports, shows antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in beef cattle is not transmitted to humans.

Dr. Tim McAllister, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada, is one of many scientists who have worked on this research for the last four years.

“We call it a One Health study because it really covers all aspects of antimicrobial resistance starting on the farm. In this case, we were focusing on the beef cattle production farms intent for feedlot production. And we follow antimicrobial resistance through the environment directly into the urban area looking at waste coming out of sewage treatment plants out of the cities as well as collecting sample from people out of the hospitals,” he told

The researchers examined whether any linkages existed between antimicrobial resistance in humans and beef cattle. The scientists used indicator bacteria as a way of monitoring the AMR in all areas, said McAllister.

The researchers used two indicator bacteria called Enterococcus phacelias and enterococcus faecium. These bacteria cause problems in humans, explained McAllister.

“The first thing we discovered was that the binary species of that bacteria that we find in the cattle is called Enterococcus hirae, so it's actually a completely different species than we find in people or in the sewage coming out of the cities,” said McAllister.

And while the researchers found some presence of Enterococcus phacelias and enterococcus faecium in cattle, differences still existed from those bacteria found in humans.

“It probably reflects that bacteria have different challenges depending upon the environment they're trying to occupy. As a result, they evolve in a matter that enables them to survive within that environment. And because the cattle-production related environment is very different than the hospital environment or the environment associated with a sewage treatment plant, their genomes have evolved separately,” said McAllister.

Basically, AMR in cattle comes from antibiotic used in cattle and AMR in Enterococcus bacteria found in humans is the result of antibiotics used in humans.

“This makes a solid indication that that red-hot linkage that's immediately a huge cause for concern is not there,” said McAllister.

However, researchers will continue to study the topic and McAllister has already started working on more research because bacteria always change.

“Bacteria are continually evolving; we’ve seen that with the coronavirus just recently that everybody is dealing with. Microorganisms can evolve and so that's why you need to be monitoring these situations on an ongoing basis,” he said.

Photo credit: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

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