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E-M:/ Rogue genetic snippets spread antibiotic resistance; ? role of commercial livestock operations



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Enviro-Mich message from "Ted Schettler" <tschettler@igc.org>
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http://discovermagazine.com/2008/mar/14-dna-pollution-may-be-spawning-killer-microbes

DNA Pollution May Be Spawning Killer Microbes
02.14.2008
Rogue genetic snippets spread antibiotic resistance all over the environment.
by Jessica Snyder Sachs



Storteboom and Pruden are at the leading edge of an international forensic investigation into a potentially colossal new health threat: DNA pollution. Specifically, the researchers are seeking out snippets of rogue genetic material that transforms annoying bacteria into unstoppable supergerms, immune to many or all modern antibiotics. Over the past 60 years, genes for antibiotic resistance have gone from rare to commonplace in the microbes that routinely infect our bodies. The newly resistant strains have been implicated in some 90,000 potentially fatal infections a year in the United States, higher than the number of automobile and homicide deaths combined.



So where in Hades did this devilishly clever DNA come from? The ultimate source may lie in the dirt beneath our feet.


Wright suspects that the antibiotic-drenched environment of commercial livestock operations is prime ground for such transfer. "You've got the genes encoding for resistance in the soil beneath these operations," he says, "and we know that the majority of the antibiotics animals consume get excreted intact." In other words, the antibiotics fuel the rise of resistant bacteria both in the animals' guts and in the dirt beneath their hooves, with ample opportunity for cross-contamination.

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Ted Schettler
Science and Environmental Health Network


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