Airborne bacterial community and antibiotic resistome in the swine farming environment: Metagenomic insights into livestock relevance, pathogen hosts and public risks


Globally extensive use of antibiotics has accelerated antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the environment. As one of the biggest antibiotic consumers, livestock farms are hotspots in AMR prevalence, especially those in the atmosphere can transmit over long distances and pose inhalation risks to the public. Here, we collected total suspended particulates in swine farms and ambient air of an intensive swine farming area. Bacterial communities and antibiotic resistomes were analyzed using amplicon and metagenomic sequencing approaches. AMR risks and inhalation exposure to potential human-pathogenic antibiotic-resistant bacteria (HPARB) were subsequently estimated with comparison to the reported hospital samples. The results show that swine farms shaped the airborne bacterial community by increasing abundances, reducing diversities and shifting compositions. Swine feces contributed 77% of bacteria to swine farm air, and about 35% to ambient air. Airborne antibiotic resistomes in swine farms mainly conferred resistance to tetracyclines, aminoglycosides and lincosamides, and over 48% were originated from swine feces. Distinct to the hospital air, Firmicutes were dominant bacteria in swine farming environments with conditional pathogens including Clostridium, Streptococcus and Aerococcus being major hosts of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). Therein, genomes of S. alactolyticus carrying (transposase/recombinase-associated) ARGs and virulence factor genes were retrieved from the metagenomes of all swine feces and swine farm air samples, but they were not detected in any hospital air samples. This suggests the indication of S. alactolyticus in swine farming environments with potential hazards to human health. Swine farm air faced higher AMR risks than hospital air and swine feces. The inhalation intake of HPARB by a swine farm worker was about three orders of magnitude higher than a person who works in the hospital. Consequently, this study depicted atmospheric transmission of bacteria and antibiotic resistomes from swine feces to the environment.

Authors: Fang-Zhou Gao, Liang-Ying He, Hong Bai, Lu-Xi He, Min Zhang, Zi-Yin Chen, You-Sheng Liu, Guang-Guo Ying
; Full Source: Environment international 2023 Jan 13;172:107751. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2023.107751.