Researchers with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the U.S. Department of Agriculture say they found naturally occurring antibiotic-resistant bacteria at 20 isolated prairie sites in southeastern Nebraska.
The team reports 48% of the soil samples tested showed resistance to two or more common antibiotic drugs.
Lisa Durso, USDA Agricultural Research Service microbiologist, says the findings show agriculture production is not creating antibiotic-resistance.
“And now we have solid evidence from natural, ungrazed, native prairie soils, right here in Nebraska, that the antibiotic-resistance bacteria and antibiotic-resistance genes are naturally present in the environment,” Durso tells Nebraska Radio Network.
“There’s pressure to reduce resistance,” she says, “but what’s the target going to be for reduction? How low can we go? Is it realistic to think that resistance can be eliminated completely? And the short answer from this research is no. You can’t eliminate it.”
Durso says testing at other pristine site around the world found the same thing.
“Knowing that there’s naturally occurring resistance allows us to more accurately measure what’s happening in real life,” Durso says, “so that eventually we can focus limited resources on what we should be doing, and we can focus those where they’ll have the most impact.”
The research team’s next step is take samples from agricultural land for testing.