Insects represent a link between food animal farms and the urban environment for antibiotic resistance traits

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2014 Jun;80(12):3562-7. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00600-14.


Antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections result in higher patient mortality rates, prolonged hospitalizations, and increased health care costs. Extensive use of antibiotics as growth promoters in the animal industry represents great pressure for evolution and selection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on farms. Despite growing evidence showing that antibiotic use and bacterial resistance in food animals correlate with resistance in human pathogens, the proof for direct transmission of antibiotic resistance is difficult to provide. In this review, we make a case that insects commonly associated with food animals likely represent a direct and important link between animal farms and urban communities for antibiotic resistance traits. Houseflies and cockroaches have been shown to carry multidrug-resistant clonal lineages of bacteria identical to those found in animal manure. Furthermore, several studies have demonstrated proliferation of bacteria and horizontal transfer of resistance genes in the insect digestive tract as well as transmission of resistant bacteria by insects to new substrates. We propose that insect management should be an integral part of pre- and postharvest food safety strategies to minimize spread of zoonotic pathogens and antibiotic resistance traits from animal farms. Furthermore, the insect link between the agricultural and urban environment presents an additional argument for adopting prudent use of antibiotics in the food animal industry.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology*
  • Bacterial Infections / transmission
  • Bacterial Infections / veterinary*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Ecosystem
  • Humans
  • Insecta / microbiology*
  • Livestock / microbiology*
  • Zoonoses / microbiology
  • Zoonoses / transmission


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents