Our Scientific Discoveries
We prioritize closing critical knowledge gaps regarding the public health impact of antibiotic overuse and misuse in people and animals. In particular, we are focused on understanding antibiotic use in food-animal production so that this issue is no longer marginalized, and all the major drivers of antibiotic resistance are properly addressed. Below are some of our latest scientific discoveries.
Antibiotic-resistant Strains of Staph Bacteria May Be Spreading Between Pigs Raised on Industrial Farms
Members of ARAC's research team were co-authors of a new study "Transmission of Antimicrobial-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Clonal Complex 9 between Pigs and Humans" published in March 2021. In the study, researchers sequenced the DNA of bacteria found in pigs and people in rural eastern North Carolina, an area with concentrated industrial-scale pig-farming. Their findings suggest that multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains are spreading between pigs, farmworkers, their families and community residents, and represents an emerging public health threat. Read the press release. Read the study.
Molecular Parasites Shape Bacterial Communities at the Heart of Wastewater Treatment Plants Over Time
In December 2020, Cindy Liu and Lance Price co-authored a paper in Nature Microbiology along with colleagues from the University of Luxembourg showing how molecular parasites – including bacterial viruses and plasmids – shape bacterial populations in wastewater treatment plants over time. You may be asking: Why would public health researchers care about bacteria in wastewater treatment plants? It turns out that bacteria are the biochemical engines of these essential sanitation systems. Bacterial populations and communities can evolve over time effecting the performance of the system. Furthermore, Liu and Price’s colleague, Paul Wilmes (senior author of the study), has shown that one of the dominant bacterial species in wastewater treatment plants, called Microthrix parvicella, makes chemicals that are ideally structured for biodiesel production. Someday wastewater treatment plants may serve dual roles of cleaning up our waste and powering city buses! In their most recent study, the research team used a deep “multi-omics” approach to show how natural CRISPR-Cas systems, which function as rudimentary immune systems in bacteria, respond to invasion by viruses and plasmids and how these molecular parasites alter bacterial populations over time. CRISPR-Cas gene editing is revolutionizing biotechnology and medicine, but this study provides a unique view into their function in nature. The article appears in the November 2 edition of Nature Microbiology.
E. coli Strain from Retail Poultry May Cause Urinary Tract Infections in People
New findings published in the American Society for Microbiology’s open access journal mBio revel that a strain of Escherichia coli (E. coli) found in retail chicken and turkey products may cause a wide range of infections in people. Researchers knew that E. coli could be passed from person-to-person in the community and in hospitals. However, this study, “Escherichia coli ST131-H22 as a Foodborne Uropathogen,” provides evidence that the E. coli lurking in fresh poultry products can be passed to people, leading to bladder infections and other serious conditions. Read the press release and study for more details.
Review: Food-Animal Production and the Spread of Antibiotic Resistance: The Role of Ecology
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment published a review, "Food-animal production and the spread of antibiotic resistance: the role of ecology," that outlines how tracking bacterial movement between humans and animals is key to understanding antibiotic resistance. It examines how genomic data are elucidating, in unprecedented detail, the pathways by which antibiotic-resistant bacteria move between food animals and humans. Applying basic ecological principles can help organize this new knowledge to better monitor, understand and manage the spread of antibiotic resistance. Read the review and press release.
Livestock Associated MRSA Causes Serious Blood Infections in People
Most Infections Occurred in People Who Had No Contact with Farm Animals
A study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases found that livestock-associated Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA) can cause serious bloodstream infections in people. Researchers studied blood stream infections caused by all strains of MRSA in Denmark from 2010 to 2014 and found that blood infections from LA-MRSA were on the rise, peaking in 2014 and accounting for 16 percent of all MRSA bloodstream infections. Read the study and the press release for more details.
Research Suggests Superbug MRSA May Be Spreading Through Contaminated Poultry
Study suggests people in urban areas with no exposure to livestock are becoming infected with poultry-associated MRSA via meat
New findings published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases suggest a novel form of the dangerous superbug Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can spread to humans through consumption or handling of contaminated poultry. The research shows that poultry may be a source of human exposure to MRSA, a superbug which can cause serious infections and even death. Read the study and the press release for more details.
Research Suggests Retail Meat is a Potential Vehicle for Disease-Causing Klebsiella
Study Is First To Link Klebsiella-Contaminated Food to Urinary and Blood Infections
Findings show that contaminated meat sold in grocery stories may be an important source of human exposure to Klebsiella pneumoniae. The research is the first to link Klebsiella contaminated food to urinary and blood infections. Read the study and press release for more details.
Multi-center Study Points Towards New Strategies for Stopping the Spread of Staph and MRSA
Study suggests that bacteria of the human nose are not genetically predetermined and that some nasal bacteria may protect against MRSA
Findings published in the AAAS journal Science Advances demonstrate that nasal microbiota is not fixed by host genetics and opens the possibility that nasal microbiota may be manipulated to prevent or eliminate S. aureus colonization. Read the study and press release for more details.
Additional Scientific Discoveries by ARAC Researchers
Dr. Lance Price has been working on the antibiotic resistance crisis for nearly 20 years. Please click here to see his entire portfolio of scientific discoveries.