Tetracycline residues and tetracycline resistance genes in groundwater impacted by swine production facilities

Roderick I. MacKie, Satoshi Koike, Ivan Krapac, Joanne Chee-Sanford, Scott Maxwell, Rustam I. Aminov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Antibiotics are used at therapeutic levels to treat disease; at slightly lower levels as prophylactics; and at low, subtherapeutic levels for growth promotion and improvement of feed efficiency. Over 88% of swine producers in the United States gave antimicrobials to grower/finisher pigs in feed as a growth promoter in 2000. It is estimated that ca. 75% of antibiotics are not absorbed by animals and are excreted in urine and feces. The extensive use of antibiotics in swine production has resulted in antibiotic resistance in many intestinal bacteria, which are also excreted in swine feces, resulting in dissemination of resistance genes into the environment.

To assess the impact of manure management on groundwater quality, groundwater samples have been collected near two swine confinement facilities that use lagoons for manure storage and treatment. Several key contaminant indicators-including inorganic ions, antibiotics, and antibiotic resistance genes-were analyzed in groundwater collected from the monitoring wells. Chloride, ammonium, potassium, and sodium were predominant inorganic constituents in the manure samples and served as indicators of groundwater contamination. Based on these analyses, shallow groundwater has been impacted by lagoon seepage at both sites. Liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy (LC-MS) was used to measure the dissolved concentrations of tetracycline, chlortetracycline, and oxytetracycline in groundwater and manure. Although tetracyclines were regularly used at both facilities, they were infrequently detected in manure samples and then at relatively trace concentrations. Concentrations of all tetracyclines and their breakdown products in the groundwater sampled were generally less than 0.5 μg/L.

Bacterial tetracycline resistance genes served as distinct genotypic markers to indicate the dissemination and mobility of antibiotic resistance genes that originated from the lagoons. Applying PCR to genomic DNA extracted from the lagoon and groundwater samples, four commonly occurring tetracycline (tet) resistance genes-tet(M), tet(O), tet(Q), and tet(W)-were detected. The detection frequency of tet genes was much higher in wells located closer to and down-gradient from the lagoons than in wells more distant from the lagoons. These results suggested that in the groundwater underlying both facilities tetracycline resistance genes exist and are somewhat persistent, but that the distribution and potentially the flux for each tet gene varied throughout the study period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-176
Number of pages20
JournalAnimal Biotechnology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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