Drugs and dung a bad mix for climate: study

Lab studies revealed that dung pats from animals given a common antibiotic gave off more than double the methane, a potent green
Lab studies revealed that dung pats from animals given a common antibiotic gave off more than double the methane, a potent greenhouse gas

Scientists have discovered a potential threat to Earth's climate lurking in a dark and smelly place: the dung of cattle treated with antibiotics, a study said Wednesday.

Lab studies revealed that dung pats from animals given a common antibiotic gave off more than double the methane, a , than those of non-treated cows, a team wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

This highlights another danger of routinely using on livestock, a practice which has already created a wave of drug resistance in humans.

"Antibiotics are extensively used in agriculture to promote growth and to treat or prevent livestock disease, yet they may have major consequences for human and environmental health," wrote the study authors.

"We provide the first demonstration that antibiotics can increase dung emissions of methane."

The team collected dung from 10 cows—five given a three-day course of a common broad-spectrum antibiotic called tetracycline, and five given none.

In decidedly unglamorous work, they divided the dung into smaller pats, which they placed in open buckets in the field along with a few empty ones, to measure and compare flows of gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

The team collected dung from 10 cows—five given a three-day course of a common broad-spectrum antibiotic called tetracycline, an
The team collected dung from 10 cows—five given a three-day course of a common broad-spectrum antibiotic called tetracycline, and five given none

Antibiotic treatment "consistently increased methane emissions," the authors found—by as much as 1.8-fold.

Agriculture is responsible for about a fifth of global .

Methane, which is about 20 times more efficient at trapping solar heat than the most prevalent , accounts for 40 percent of farming emissions.

It comes largely from belching cattle and rice cultivation.

The researchers speculated that antibiotics may change microbial activity within the cow gut. This suggested it may also be increasing from belching, already known to be much higher than from dung.

Further studies were needed to quantify the contribution of agricultural antibiotic use to global warming, the team suggested.

The routine use of antibiotics in farmed animals in countries like the United States is blamed for contributing to the spread of in humans—turning easily-treatable diseases into potential killers.

Bacteria which make humans and animals ill can develop resistance when medicines are administered unnecessarily, for too short a period or in too small a dose.


Explore further

Beetles modify emissions of greenhouse gases from cow pats

More information: Treating cattle with antibiotics affects greenhouse gas emissions, and microbiota in dung and dung beetles, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, rspb.royalsocietypublishing.or … .1098/rspb.2016.0150

© 2016 AFP

Citation: Drugs and dung a bad mix for climate: study (2016, May 25) retrieved 15 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-05-drugs-dung-bad-climate.html
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User comments

May 25, 2016
Big Pharma, you have gone too far, . . . again.

Time for corrective action.

May 25, 2016
Go get 'em, Georgie

May 25, 2016
Send money.

Dug
May 25, 2016
"This highlights another danger of routinely using antibiotics on livestock, a practice which has already created a wave of drug resistance in humans." From what I read MRSA type antibiotic resistance has a far greater association with antibiotic use in hospital environments. Only trace amount of antibiotics show up in animal tissues - primarily concentrated in fats, liver, and kidneys - if at all. Consequently, the link between antibiotic resistance has far greater association from hospitals where the same strains of bacteria establish and get treated repeatedly with the same antibiotics - especially with long term patients with poor immune function.


May 25, 2016
I'm not saying there isn't something in this research. I'm just saying the headline and tone are nothing but clickbait. And this was from the Proceedings. Scientists need to stop letting PR flaks write these articles for them.

May 26, 2016
Hey here's a awake-up, the frozen up north is not so frozen any more. The methane contained in permafrost is now being released into or air. Canada has a lot of ice and snow, but, the permafrost is melting. Hey ask David, he knows !

May 26, 2016
Stop all WILDFIRES, they are not good, they consume O2 I think we need that . Also, they destroy everything in the path, and the fire adds heat to every thing. Heat is not good. We need to " chill out" really we do ! Thanks to all the responders out there, and the earths responders, which are coming. It's our fight for or right to be on this earth, do it, remove the flame, KILL the Flame.

May 26, 2016
Stop all WILDFIRES, tl;dr


You do realize that the main reason wildfires are so large and out of control in recent years is due to fire prevention over the last century has turned our forests into giant tinderboxes. Stopping fires can exacerbate the problem.

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