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Research into antibiotic-resistant bacteria in fresh produce

Scientists at the Iowa State University of Science and Technology will model the movement of bacteria through different environments, such as surface and subsurface water, as a route for bacterial movement from animal and human waste to plant crops. They were awarded $ 1 million to do so. 

The award is part of a total investment of more than $5 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to mitigate antimicrobial resistance across the food chain.

According to the team, antibiotic resistance is a global public health challenge. "Food is an important vehicle for transmitting foodborne microorganisms. Fresh vegetables may serve as an important reservoir for antibiotic-resistant bacteria and resistance genes. Currently, there is a lack of thorough study of antibiotic resistance in the vegetable supply chains in the United States."

The goals of this project are to assess the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in retail vegetables and to determine critical factors contributing to antibiotic resistance transmission in vegetable production and supply chains.

"We will use the combination of resistance phenotype screening, genomics, and metagenomics approaches to assess antibiotic resistance. We will conduct a large-scale assessment of the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in retail vegetables in the U.S. markets. Moreover, we will investigate the critical factors that may contribute to antibiotic resistance in vegetable farms. We will also determine current industry and consumers' perceptions related to antibiotic resistance in fresh produce. The success of the project will enhance knowledge related to the dissemination of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the vegetable production systems, which will help to mitigate the risk of antibiotic resistance in vegetable products. The new knowledge will be disseminated to farmers, the produce industry, consumers, and the general public by multiple extension platforms." 

"Pathogen resistance to antimicrobials is a complex problem, encompassing human medicine, poultry and livestock health, and even plant crop production," said Acting NIFA Director Dr. Dionne Toombs. "The projects supported through this investment will work to ensure a safe, nutritious, and abundant food supply while conserving antimicrobial effectiveness."

Nine projects are being funded, totaling $5,117,165. Other research approaches include risk assessment, antibiotic management and stewardship, advancing understanding of emerging resistant pathogens and their mechanisms for resistance, and disease control using antimicrobial alternatives.

Click here for all funded projects.

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