ASM Microbe 2019 — Plants are also an antibiotic resistance worry


  • Emily Willingham, PhD
  • Conference Reports
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Takeaway

  • Plant foods may transmit resistance to gut microbial strains as well as animal foods, according to these findings in mice, presented at the ASM Microbe 2019 meeting. 
  • The authors urge addressing foodborne resistance through all components of the food chain, including plants.  

Why this matters

  • Livestock are known vectors for antibiotic-resistant genes, but a role for plants is unclear.
  • Plants grown for human consumption are often fertilized with products from antibiotic-fed livestock, say the authors. 
  • The CDC currently bases its calculations of annual antibiotic-resistant infections linked to agriculture using animal-vectored transmission only. 

Key results

  • These authors say that the bacteria on plant foods could colonize the gut after being eaten.
  • Treatments with antibiotics and antacids and types of food accompanying the ingestion affected colonization capacity.
  • Lettuce was the plant food used in this study, with leaves exposed to Escherichia coli contamination. 

Study design

  • The researchers fed mice contaminated lettuce and analyzed the ability of the resistant bacteria to colonize the gut following ingestion and under various conditions (e.g., antibiotic treatment).
  • They used stool samples to quantify bacterial colonization. 

Limitations

  • The study was performed using mice, and the results were presented at a conference without peer review.