If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Farms lead to gut bugs swapping

Bacteria with antimicrobial-resistance genes pass from livestock to farm interns

by Laura Howes
March 28, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 12


Side view of a veterinarian in a white coat, mask, and hat holding a clipboard and checking on pigs.
Credit: Shutterstock
The bacteria found on pig farms can find their way into the guts of farmworkers.

How does a livestock farm’s environment change farmworkers’ gut microbiomes? To answer that question, a group led by Ya-Hong Liu and coworkers at the South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou examined how gut microbiomes changed in 14 male veterinary students during 3-month internships at several large-scale pig farms in China (Nat. Commun. 2020, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-15222-y). The team compared fecal samples from the students before, during, and after their internships, as well as samples from long-term workers at those farms and from the farm environments themselves. Genetic sequencing of the bacteria in the students’ samples showed that the students picked up bacteria from the environment during their time at the pig farms, making their gut microbiomes more similar to those of long-term farmworkers. And because the pigs are on antibiotics, some of the bugs that transferred to the students carried antibiotic-resistance genes. Six months later, the guts of the students had mostly recovered. Even so, the researchers say that the transfer of antibiotic resistance from bacteria on the farm to bacteria in the human gut could be a risk for workers who stay on farms for long periods.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.