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Antibiotics in agroecosystems: Introduction to the special section

Author:
Franklin, Alison M., Aga, Diana S., Cytryn, Eddie, Durso, Lisa M., McLain, Jean E., Pruden, Amy, Roberts, Marilyn C., Rothrock, Michael J., Snow, Daniel D., Watson, John E., Dungan, Robert S.
Source:
Journal of environmental quality 2016 v.43 no.2 pp. 377-393
ISSN:
0047-2425
Subject:
agroecosystems, animal wastes, antibiotic residues, antibiotic resistance, antibiotics, bacteria, chemical analysis, decision support systems, food animals, genes, growth promotion, models, pollution, public health, soil amendments, therapeutics
Abstract:
The presence of antibiotic drug residues, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and antibiotic resistance genes in agroecosystems has become a significant area of research in recent years, and is a growing public health concern. While antibiotics are utilized for human medicine and agricultural practices, the majority of antibiotic use occurs in food animals where these drugs have historically been used for growth promotion, in addition to prevention and treatment of disease. The widespread use of antibiotics combined with the application of human and animal wastes to agricultural fields introduces antibiotic-related contamination into the environment. While overt toxicity in organisms directly exposed to antibiotic in agroecosystems is generally not an issue due to concentrations generally lower than therapeutic doses, the impacts of introducing antibiotic contaminants are unknown, and concerns have arisen about the health of humans, animals and ecosystems (One Health). Despite increases in research focused on the fate and occurrence of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance over the past decade, standard methodologies and practices for analyzing environmental samples are limited, and future research needs are becoming evident. To address these issues in detail, this special section was developed with a framework of five core review papers that address the (i) overall state of science of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance in agroecosystems with a causal model; (ii) chemical analysis of antibiotics in the environment; (iii) necessity for background and baseline data for studies of antibiotic resistance in agroecosystems with a decision-making tool to assist in designing research studies; as well as (iv) culture- and (v) molecular-based methods for analyzing antibiotic resistance in the environment. With a focus on the core review papers, this introduction to the special section summarizes the current state of science for analyzing antibiotics and antibiotic resistance in agroecosystems, while also discussing current knowledge gaps and future research priorities. This introduction also contains a glossary of terminologies that are commonly used throughout the special section. By defining these terminologies, it is hoped to provide a common language that clearly defines the linkages across the narratives of each paper.