Dr. Noelle Noyes received the 2022 McKnight Land-Grant Professorship for her work on Microbes for Sustainable Intensification of Livestock Production. As the human population expands, so does its demand for protein. Livestock farmers must meet this demand, but their land and water are shrinking rapidly, meaning they must produce more with less. Dr. Noyes confronts this challenge through scientific discovery of the livestock microbiome.
In one of their latest studies in collaboration with Pipestone Systems and Dr. Peter Davies, the Noyes lab evaluates the impact of antimicrobial use on resistance patterns in PRRS-infected pigs. The publication is available in open access in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal.
Despite a recognized need for more longitudinal studies to assess the effects of antimicrobial use on resistance in food animals, they remain sparse in the literature, and most longitudinal studies of pigs have been observational. The current experimental study had the advantages of greater control of potential confounding, precise measurement of antimicrobial exposures which differed markedly between groups and tracking of pigs until market age. Overall, resistance patterns were remarkably stable between the treatment groups over time, and the differences observed could not be readily reconciled with the antimicrobial exposures, indicating the likely importance of other determinants of antimicrobial resistance at the population level.
A longitudinal study was conducted to assess the impact of different antimicrobial exposures of nursery-phase pigs on patterns of phenotypic antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in fecal indicator organisms throughout the growing phase. Based on practical approaches used to treat moderate to severe porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV)-associated secondary bacterial infections, two antimicrobial protocols of differing intensities of exposure [44.1 and 181.5 animal-treatment days per 1000 animal days at risk (ATD)] were compared with a control group with minimal antimicrobial exposure (2.1 ATD). Litter-matched pigs (n = 108) with no prior antimicrobial exposure were assigned randomly to the treatment groups. Pen fecal samples were collected nine times during the wean-to-finish period and cultured for Escherichia coli and Enterococcus spp. Antimicrobial-susceptibility testing was conducted using NARMS Gram-negative and Gram-positive antibiotic panels. Despite up to 65-fold difference in ATD, few and modest differences were observed between groups and over time. Resistance patterns at marketing overall remained similar to those observed at weaning, prior to any antimicrobial exposures. Those differences observed could not readily be reconciled with the patterns of antimicrobial exposure. Resistance of E. coli to streptomycin was higher in the group exposed to 44.1 ATD, but no aminoglycosides were used. In all instances where resistances differed between time points, the higher resistance occurred early in the trial prior to any antimicrobial exposures. These minimal impacts on AMR despite substantially different antimicrobial exposures point to the lack of understanding of the drivers of AMR at the population level and the likely importance of factors other than antimicrobial exposure.