A Kansas State University epidemiologist has received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve food safety by managing antibiotic resistance in beef and dairy cattle.

H. Morgan Scott, a professor in Kansas State University’s department of diagnostic medicine and pathology, said the research will focus on “the longstanding problem” of resistant enteric bacteria.

Antibiotics are commonly used to treat animals, but are also used as food supplements in the beef and dairy industry.  There have been increased calls for more regulation of the practices,  and growing concerns about whether pathogenic bacteria resistant to antibiotics are entering the food chain and may potentially affect human health.

“Threats to the continued use of several common agricultural formulations of antimicrobials are looming in the form of FDA guidance documents and draft federal legislation,” Scott said in the KSU news release.  “Having scientifically proven tools available to veterinarians and producers to counter bacterial resistance where and when it arises is essential to maintaining public trust in our abilities to manage threats to public health.”

The costs to animal agriculture will be tremendous if certain classes or uses of antibiotics are no longer available, Scott said.

“The use of antibiotics for treatment and prevention of bacterial infections in beef and dairy cattle is essential for producing safe and wholesome food for consumers, for maximizing the welfare of animals, and for sustaining profitability in animal agriculture,” he said.

The university reported that Scott will be working with researchers from University of Guelph, Angelo State University, Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University, Cornell University, Colorado State University and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The research results, including effective and ineffective interventions, will be shared with industry principles.

Scott is also hopeful that the research will lead to improvements in the level of detection of early-resistant E. coli. 

  • Seeing as KSU is also home to Michael Apley, and given Dr. Scott’s words, you could bet the farm that this research will defend antibiotic use. Dr. Apley is the industry’s leading voice defending the use of antibiotics in feed. Maybe we can daydream that Dr. Scott will give significant weight to potential public health costs, but his ominous language regarding potential bans on the subtherapeutic use of human class antibiotics as growth promoters points in other directions.
    Which reminds me to finish USDA ERS’s “Antimicrobial Drug Use and Veterinary Costs in U.S. Livestock Production”…

  • Doc Mudd

    Well, Bulger, you aim to save us $2 million by pre-judging the outcome of the research – no need to bother with it then, eh? Talk about daydreaming!
    Let’s get some objective science completed and reported. You emotional types can still thrash about with your subjective beliefs and daydreams…and your phobias and animosities. There’s no reasoning with some of you anyway – that’s not why we undertake scientific research – it’s to accurately inform the sane majority of us and keep our knowledge progressing. Your participation in objective learning is optional, of course.

  • Oh, Mudd. Thank you for your own demonstration of emotional thrashing.
    I’ll admit I missed the point of this study. It’s to develop industry-friendly interventions for antibiotic-resistance in livestock that don’t include changing feed additives.
    I was coming from the standpoint of a greater familiarity with legislative and regulatory pushes to limit/ban the use of subtherapeutic uses of several human-class antibiotics in livestock.
    I thought I’d point out that we can expect Scott to be of the opinion that the potential for transference of antibiotic-resitant pathogens to humans is possible, as well as that increased antibiotic use results in an increased number of resistant pathogens, but that there is no conclusive evidence that quantitates the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics leading to human illness.
    I expect him to fall into the camp of scientists who write that all parts of the chain of causation are realistic, but they’d rather not call it a chain. Some prefer the precautionary principle, but instead of erring on the side of human health, they choose to safeguard industry pennies.
    I’d aim to spend $2 million dollars on someone who doesn’t see using antibiotics as a matter of “profitability”. I think it’d be more constructive for the USDA to provide grants to scientists who don’t view FDA guidance as “looming”. Looming is a negative word. Alas, this is the Department of Agriculture, not of Health and Human Services.
    If H. Scott Morgan was approaching this objectively, I would think he would be quoted discussing the research potential from a strictly medical standpoint. Instead, he seems to view this as an endeavor to defend industry from FDA and PAMTA. Thereby, he can preserve the rights of livestock producers to breed R+ microorganisms (as long Scott invents some trick to catch ’em in time). I’ll stand back and let him do his research.

  • Doc Mudd

    Project much?