Evaluating the potential of third generation metagenomic sequencing for the detection of BRD pathogens and genetic determinants of antimicrobial resistance in chronically ill feedlot cattle

BMC Vet Res. 2022 Jun 2;18(1):211. doi: 10.1186/s12917-022-03269-6.


Background: Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is an important cause of morbidity and mortality and is responsible for most of the injectable antimicrobial use in the feedlot industry. Traditional bacterial culture can be used to diagnose BRD by confirming the presence of causative pathogens and to support antimicrobial selection. However, given that bacterial culture takes up to a week and early intervention is critical for treatment success, culture has limited utility for informing rapid therapeutic decision-making. In contrast, metagenomic sequencing has the potential to quickly resolve all nucleic acid in a sample, including pathogen biomarkers and antimicrobial resistance genes. In particular, third-generation Oxford Nanopore Technology sequencing platforms provide long reads and access to raw sequencing data in real-time as it is produced, thereby reducing the time from sample collection to diagnostic answer. The purpose of this study was to compare the performance of nanopore metagenomic sequencing to traditional culture and sensitivity methods as applied to nasopharyngeal samples from segregated groups of chronically ill feedlot cattle, previously treated with antimicrobials for nonresponsive pneumonia or lameness.

Results: BRD pathogens were isolated from most samples and a variety of different resistance profiles were observed across isolates. The sequencing data indicated the samples were dominated by Moraxella bovoculi, Mannheimia haemolytica, Mycoplasma dispar, and Pasteurella multocida, and included a wide range of antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs), encoding resistance for up to seven classes of antimicrobials. Genes conferring resistance to beta-lactams were the most commonly detected, while the tetH gene was detected in the most samples overall. Metagenomic sequencing detected the BRD pathogens of interest more often than did culture, but there was limited concordance between phenotypic resistance to antimicrobials and the presence of relevant ARGs.

Conclusions: Metagenomic sequencing can reduce the time from sampling to results, detect pathogens missed by bacterial culture, and identify genetically encoded determinants of resistance. Increasing sequencing coverage of target organisms will be an essential component of improving the reliability of this technology, such that it can be better used for the surveillance of pathogens of interest, genetic determinants of resistance, and to inform diagnostic decisions.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Infective Agents*
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Cattle Diseases* / drug therapy
  • Cattle Diseases* / microbiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Infective Agents