Occurrence and abundance of antibiotic resistance genes in agricultural soil receiving dairy manure

FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2018 Mar 1;94(3). doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiy010.


Animal manures are commonly used to enhance soil fertility, but there are growing concerns over the impact of this practice on the development and dissemination of antibiotic resistance. The aim of this field study was to determine the effect of annual dairy manure applications on the occurrence and abundance of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in an agricultural soil during four years of crop production. Treatments included (i) control (no fertilizer or manure), (ii) inorganic fertilizer and (iii) dairy manure at three application rates. Quantitative PCR was used to determine absolute (per g dry soil) and relative (per 16S rRNA gene) abundances of ARGs in DNA extracted from soils. Six ARGs and one class 1 integron were targeted. This study found that (i) manure application increases ARG abundances above background soil levels; (ii) the higher the manure application rate, the higher the ARG abundance in soil; (iii) the amount of manure applied is more important than reoccurring annual applications of the same amount of manure; (iv) absolute abundance and occurrence of ARGs decreases with increasing soil depth, but relative abundances remained constant. This study demonstrated that dairy manure applications to soil significantly increase the abundance of clinically relevant ARGs when compared to control and inorganic fertilized plots.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Fertilizers / analysis
  • Integrons
  • Livestock
  • Manure / analysis
  • Manure / microbiology*
  • Soil / chemistry
  • Soil Microbiology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Fertilizers
  • Manure
  • Soil