Organic farming and antibiotic resistant bacteria:

Well, this news story is certainly going to get some publicity and almost certainly some responses. The Washington Post and Baltimore Sun are reporting on a new paper: Lower Prevalence of Antibiotic-resistant Enterococci On U.S. Conventional Poultry Farms That Transitioned to Organic Practices. The paper is from Environmental Health Perspectives – an open access journal so anyone out there can check it out. However, you might want to start with the news stories:

Organic farming reduces resistance of bacteria to antibiotics, study finds – The Checkup – The Washington Post

In summary – the researchers cultured microbes from poultry farms – including conventional ones as well as ones that recently switched from conventional to organic practices. And though potentially unpleasant types of microbes were found everywhere, the percentage of those microbes that were resistant to antibiotics was much higher at the conventional farms than the newly organic ones. Not surprising to me or to many others. But at least someone is studying it. In general (from other word), it seems like we desperately need to reduce antibiotic usage on farms — to limit the potential selection for and spread of antibiotic resistance. But general recommendations are less useful than specific studies. Hopefully this study is sound and will get a lot of press.

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

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