Drugs and dung a bad mix for climate: study

May 25, 2016
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, 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

Related Stories

Beetles modify emissions of greenhouse gases from cow pats

August 22, 2013

Cattle contribute to global warming by burping and farting large amounts of greenhouse gases. Some of the same gases are also emitted from cow pats on pastures. But now researchers from the University of Helsinki have found ...

Greenhouse gas 'bookkeeping' turned on its head

March 9, 2016

For the first time scientists have looked at the net balance of the three major greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide—for every region of Earth's landmasses. They found surprisingly, that human-induced ...

Climate: Meat turns up the heat

July 21, 2014

Eating meat contributes to climate change, due to greenhouse gasses emitted by livestock. New research finds that livestock emissions are on the rise and that beef cattle are responsible for far more greenhouse gas emissions ...

Cutting methane emissions from cattle

March 11, 2016

Cattle have bad breath and commonly suffer from severe, chronic flatus generating large amounts of methane, which is a greenhouse gas and a driver of anthropogenic global warming. There is an obvious answer to this problem, ...

Recommended for you

People waste nearly a pound of food daily: study

April 18, 2018

Americans waste nearly a pound of food per person each day, but the exact amount of food we trash differs by how healthy your diet is, a new University of Vermont co-authored national study finds.

Coal mining reduces abundance, richness of aquatic life

April 18, 2018

Coal mining, under current US regulations, has significantly reduced the abundance and variety of fish, invertebrates, salamanders, and other aquatic life in streams, according to a new study from the University of Tennessee, ...

8 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gkam
1 / 5 (8) May 25, 2016
Big Pharma, you have gone too far, . . . again.

Time for corrective action.
Otto_Szucks
1.8 / 5 (5) May 25, 2016
Go get 'em, Georgie
gkam
1 / 5 (9) May 25, 2016
Send money.
Dug
5 / 5 (5) 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.

leetennant
5 / 5 (3) 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.
ericpelser
1 / 5 (2) 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 !
ericpelser
1 / 5 (3) 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.
SCVGoodToGo
4.2 / 5 (5) 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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.