"The human and animal gut is like an incubator for these resistant bacteria," Wang said. Another study in the journal, by U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service authors, reported similar finding in organic pigs. A group at Iowa State University reported an anti-inflammatory drug can also facilitate the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
"These findings play a critical role in revealing details about how antibiotic resistance develops in the environmental, food and gut microflora," Wang said. "These details will help scientists down the road and shed light on how we might control the problem, solving it from its root causes."
Researchers have already seen some success, Wang said. A 2006 study reported antibiotic resistance in many foods, including meat, salad, cheese and seafood products from grocery stores, primarily carried by commensal bacteria including lactic acid bacteria. Since then, Wang's lab, in collaboration with Ohio State colleagues Valente Alvarez and James Harper and the dairy industry, examined the cheese-making process and found a way to control the problem. A report on that research, also in the journal, showed that retail cheese samples collected in 2010 found only sporadic incidences of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in such foods, suggesting the systemic issue has been taken care of.
Wang said she and her colleagues have put together an expert recommendation and have submitted it to various government agencies, including the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, a joint operation of the Food and Drug Administration, USDA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and have published the recommendation in American Society for Microbiology's official magazine, "Microbe." USDA's Agricultural Research Service has already included a focus on antibiotic resistance and commensal bacteria in its five-year strategic plan, and the content of the recommendation is also reflected in the 2011 Codex Guidelines for Risk Analysis of Foodborne Antimicrobial Resistance by WHO/FAO, Wang said.
"The overarching goal is to effectively solve the problem of antibiotic resistance," Wang said. "With the new scope and knowledge, our chance of success is greatly increased. We may not be far from achieving our goal, possibly even within the next several years."