Antibiotics are used in animal livestock production for therapeutic treatment of disease and at subtherapeutic levels for growth promotion and improvement of feed efficiency. It is estimated that approximately 75% of antibiotics are not absorbed by animals and are excreted in waste. Antibiotic resistance selection occurs among gastrointestinal bacteria, which are also excreted in manure and stored in waste holding systems. Land application of animal waste is a common disposal method used in the United States and is a means for environmental entry of both antibiotics and genetic resistance determinants. Concerns for bacterial resistance gene selection and dissemination of resistance genes have prompted interest about the concentrations and biological activity of drug residues and break-down metabolites, and their fate and transport. Fecal bacteria can survive for weeks to months in the environment, depending on species and temperature, however, genetic elements can persist regardless of cell viability. Phylogenetic analyses indicate antibiotic resistance genes have evolved, although some genes have been maintained in bacteria before the modern antibiotic era. Quantitative measurements of drug residues and levels of resistance genes are needed, in addition to understanding the environmental mechanisms of genetic selection, gene acquisition, and the spatiotemporal dynamics of these resistance genes and their bacterial hosts. This review article discusses an accumulation of findings that address aspects of the fate, transport, and persistence of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes in natural environments, with emphasis on mechanisms pertaining to soil environments following land application of animal waste effluent.
- ISGS, ISWS
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Engineering
- Water Science and Technology
- Waste Management and Disposal
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law