Antimicrobial resistant determinants (ARDs) can be transmitted from livestock systems through meat products or environmental effluents. The public health risk posed by these two routes is not well understood, particularly in non-pathogenic bacteria. We collected pooled samples from 8 groups of 1741 commercial cattle as they moved through the process of beef production from feedlot entry through slaughter. We recorded antimicrobial drug exposures and interrogated the resistome at points in production when management procedures could potentially influence ARD abundance and/or transmission. Over 300 unique ARDs were identified. Resistome diversity decreased while cattle were in the feedlot, indicating selective pressure. ARDs were not identified in beef products, suggesting that slaughter interventions may reduce the risk of transmission of ARDs to beef consumers. This report highlights the utility and limitations of metagenomics for assessing public health risks regarding antimicrobial resistance, and demonstrates that environmental pathways may represent a greater risk than the food supply.

Noelle R Noyes, Xiang Yang, Lyndsey M. Linke, Roberta J. Magnuson, Adam Dettenwanger, Shaun Cook, Ifigenia Geornaras, Dale R. Woerner , Sheryl P. Gow, Tim A. McAllister, Hua Yang, Jaime Ruiz, Kenneth L. Jones, Christina A. Boucher, Paul S. Morley, Keith E. Belk. 2016. Resistome diversity in cattle and the environment decreases during beef production. eLife 2016;5:e13195