In DepthPHARMACEUTICALS

China's lakes of pig manure spawn antibiotic resistance

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Science  13 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6223, pp. 704
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6223.704

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Summary

China raises and consumes roughly half the planet's pigs, which produce an estimated 618 billion kilograms of manure each year. And the pigs consume and excrete tens of thousands of tons of antibiotics, added to their feed to keep them healthy and promote growth. Recent studies, including one due out soon, are documenting the predictable result: a proliferation in China's watercourses of bacteria containing genes for resistance to antibiotics. It's a phenomenon familiar to other countries with industrialized meat systems, but on a whole new scale. A chief worry is that antibiotic resistance genes could find their way into pathogenic bacteria, creating so-called superbugs.

  • * in Tongxiang and Xiamen, China