November Member Spotlight Recap: The University of Vermont

By Kris Johansen posted 11-30-2023 03:26 PM


NIAMRRE welcomed Dr. John Barlow, Associate Professor in the Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Vermont, for the November Member Spotlight.  Dr. Barlow’s excellent talk, “AMR on small to medium sized dairy farms in Vermont: is it relevant?” provided insights to the work conducted in his laboratory, which is aimed at helping to support organic dairy farmers in the state, as well as artisanal cheese-making farmers. Dr. Barlow’s group’s work uses a One Health approach and includes food safety, milk quality, and mastitis on farms making farmstead cheese and artisan cheese, antibiotic resistance on dairy farms, Staphylococcus infections in dairy cattle, mastitis ecology and epidemiology, and alternative mastitis therapies. One of the key highlights from the work that Dr. Barlow presented included findings that human-adapted strains of S. aureus had higher frequency of antibiotic resistance compared to cattle-adapted strains from Vermont dairy farms engaged in making farmstead cheese. In this work, evidence of spill-over of resistant S. aureus between cows and humans, and in both directions, was observed.  Another highlight was an overview of a study of resistome metagenomics in an interesting example Vermont poultry farm using food waste feeding and composting. Samples were taken from across the various sources of food waste (i.e., schools, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.), eggs and egg washes, as well as across the composting system, which includes a vermiculture component.  Antibiotic resistances genes (ARG) were found in samples taken from a variety of the food waste sources and eggs and egg wash, but interestingly, were found to be substantially reduced after the vermiculture step.  This finding is consistent with other reports in the literature, and represents an intriguing avenue for future work into inactivation of ARG.  A final project highlighted was work to develop a resistome pipeline in environmental and food samples from dairy farms in Vermont; this effort addressed some of the challenges in having large amounts of host DNA present when trying to sequence and analyze bacterial ARG, and also focused on developing a pipeline for differential downstream analysis for both taxonomical and antimicrobial resistance gene detection.  In this research, unique resistance genes were found in samples taken from line filters, drinking water, manure, and feed, and the team was able to demonstrate the ability to link specific taxa to the resistance gene(s) using metagenome-assembled genomes.

You can hear the lively Q & A that follow Dr. Barlow’s presentation and learn more about his research by viewing the November Member Spotlight recording.

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