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Composting found to Reduce Spread of Antibiotic Resistant Genes

Mar 07 2018 Read 1523 Times

University of York researchers have discovered a technology that removes antibiotic resistant genes likely to be contained in industrial compost, which could also act as a means of preventing them entering the food chain.

Scientists at York, in partnership with Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, China, have shown that by using an industrial scale process that heats the compost mixture from within to a temperature of 90°C -hyperthermophilic composting – these antibiotic resistant-carrying bacteria can be killed.

Dr Ville Friman, from the University of York’s Department of Biology, said: “In modern animal husbandry, animals are reared in high density to maximize food production. However, in these circumstances diseases can spread very easily. To contain epidemics, antibiotics are used, which can then give rise to antibiotic resistance-carrying bacteria in the gut of the animals.

“Antibiotic resistance genes are then transferred to the faeces of the animal, which is later used as manure in compost that is spread on fields to fertilize crops. Anitibiotic resistance is a significant global health issue, so we need to find ways of reducing the likelihood of these genes entering the food chain.

“Developing safer ways to manufacture organic fertilisers can reduce our dependence of traditional chemical fertilisers, whilst at the same time ensuring that they do not impact on human health by enriching antibiotic resistance genes in agricultural environments.”

Hyperthermophilic composting is a process that is similar in cost to traditional composting methods and has proved to work successfully with large compost volumes, making it a feasible approach at an industrial scale in the near future.

The research is published in Environmental Science and Technology

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