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Center for a Livable Future


August 12, 2011

Organic Poultry Farms Brew Profoundly Fewer Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Environmental Health Perspectives has published an important study showing that the removal of antibiotic use on poultry farms results, quickly and dramatically, in a reduction of antibiotic-resistant Enterococcus. The study, led by Amy Sapkota of the University of Maryland School of Public Health, investigated the impact of removing antibiotics from U.S. poultry farms by studying ten conventional and ten newly organic large-scale poultry houses in the mid-Atlantic region. They tested for the presence of enterococci bacteria in poultry litter, feed, and water, and tested its resistance to 17 common antimicrobials, most of them critically important in treating human infections.

Sapkota’s research was funded by the Center for a Livable Future, and it validates the trend underway among some poultry farms—converting from conventional to organic methods. Sapkota, who earned a doctorate in Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public School and once served as the Center's research director, said, “We initially hypothesized that we would see some differences in on-farm levels of antibiotic-resistant enterococci when poultry farms transitioned to organic practices. But we were surprised to see that the differences were so significant across several different classes of antibiotics even in the very first flock that was produced after the transition to organic standards.”

The Center's director, Robert Lawrence says, “Amy’s research confirms what has long been suspected but never documented in the U.S.—poultry growers who convert to an organic system can reduce the incidence of antibiotic resistance and make an important contribution to safeguarding the health of the public.”

Check out the Press release and paper in Environmental Health Perspectives.