Changes in intestinal flora of farm personnel after introduction of a tetracycline-supplemented feed on a farm

N Engl J Med. 1976 Sep 9;295(11):583-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJM197609092951103.


A prospective study was undertaken to determine whether feeding farm animals antibiotics in feed caused changes in the intestinal bacterial flora of farm dwellers and their neighbors. Chickens were fed tetracycline-supplemented feed (tet-feed), and, as expected, within one week their intestinal flora contained almost entirely tetracycline-resistant organisms. Increased numbers of resistant intestinal bacteria also appeared, but more slowly, in farm members, but not their neighbors. Within five and six months, 31.3 per cent of weekly fecal samples from farm dwellers contained greater than 80 per cent tetracycline-resistant bacteria as compared to 6.8 per cent of the samples from the neighbors (P less than 0.001). Seven of the 11 farm members, but only three of the 24 neighbors, had two or more fecal samples containing greater than 80 per cent tetracycline-resistant coliforms (P less than 0.01). These resistant bacteria contained transferable plasmids conferring multiple antibiotic resistances. Selective pressure by tet-feed for antibiotic-resistant bacteria in chickens extends to human beings in contact with chickens and the feed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Agriculture
  • Animal Feed*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic / microbiology*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Chickens
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial*
  • Eggs
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Food Microbiology
  • Humans
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Occupations
  • R Factors
  • Tetracyclines / administration & dosage*


  • Tetracyclines