MSUToday
Published: July 22, 2015

New MSU center tackles antibiotic resistance

Contact(s): Mackenzie Kastl Media Communications office: (517) 884-8048 mackenzie.kastl@cabs.msu.edu, Felicia Wu Food Science and Human Nutrition office: (517) 355-8474, ext. 133 fwu@msu.edu

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year in the U.S. alone, 23,000 people die from resistant infections. Researchers at the Michigan State University Center for the Health Impacts of Agriculture are on a mission to find strategies to deal with the impending global threat of antibiotic resistance.

“We are pleased to announce the first research project to be funded by the Center for the Health Impacts of Agriculture,” said Felicia Wu, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor and CHIA Co-director. “The study will target antibiotics used in animal agriculture to find out how they find their way into the environment and what the ultimate impact on humans, if any, might be.”

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria are able to acquire and develop resistance to the antibiotics that are used to fight them. The largest volume of antibiotic use today is in animal agriculture, and researchers plan to analyze soil and water samples from the environment to see if this use of antibiotics is having an effect.

“We want to know if antibiotic resistant genes in the environment are able to easily transfer to other microbes, including serious pathogens,” said Jim Tiedje, University Distinguished Professor of plant, soil and microbial sciences and lead investigator on the project. “By investigating these genes in the environment, we hope to determine the extent of risk to humans, and how that risk can be reduced by adjusting agricultural practices.”

CHIA was developed to advance research that addresses the links between the study of global food supply, agriculture and nutrition to the study of human health. Global health is a growing priority as the world considers how proposed methods for increased food production affect not only the environment, but also human health and economic well-being.

MSU units participating in the study include: Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Animal Science, Veterinary Medicine, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Epidemiology and Communications.

Felicia Wu, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor in the departments of Food Science and Human Nutrition and Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics at Michigan State University is an international expert in global health, agriculture and trade. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz