The analysis of antibiotics in animal faeces is important to obtain more insight in the possible formation of bacterial resistance in the animals¿ gut, to learn about the dissemination of antibiotics to the environment, to monitor trends in antibiotic usage and to detect the illegal and off-label use of antibiotics. To facilitate these studies a comprehensive method for the analysis of trace levels of 44 antibiotic compounds including tetracyclines, quinolones, macrolides and sulfonamides in animal faeces by liquid chromatography in combination with tandem mass spectrometric (LC–MS/MS) detection is reported. The method is fully validated according to European regulation and showed satisfactory quantitative performance according to the stringent criteria adopted, with the exception of some of the macrolide compounds, which can be analysed with somewhat high measurement uncertainty. A large survey was carried out monitoring swine and cattle faeces and the outcomes were striking. In 55% of the swines, originating from 80% of the swine farms and in 75% of the calves, originating from 95% of the cattle farms, antibiotics were detected. Oxytetracycline, doxycycline and sulfadiazine were the most detected antibiotics, followed by tetracycline, flumequine, lincomycin and tylosin. Over 34% of the faeces samples contained two or more different antibiotics with a maximum of eight. Possible explanations for these findings are given and the effects are discussed.
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