Industrial food animal production uses huge amounts of antibiotics worldwide. Livestock, their excreta used for manure and meat subproducts not intended for human consumption can all play important roles in the transmission of bacterial resistance to wildlife. Vultures and other scavengers can be directly exposed to active antibiotics ingested while feeding on livestock carcasses. This study evaluates whether bacterial resistance in the red kite (Milvus milvus
) differs between two wintering areas selected based on patent differences in farming practices—particularly in the industrial production of food animals (primarily swine and poultry) vs. scarce and declining sheep herding. The results support the hypothesis that intensification in food animal production is associated with increased bacterial multidrug resistance in wildlife. Resistance was positively correlated with time elapsed since the beginning of the commercial application of each antibiotic in human and veterinary medicine, with clear differences depending on farming intensification between areas. Monitoring programs are encouraged to use red kites and other avian scavengers as valuable sentinels of contamination by antibiotics and clinically relevant resistant pathogens from livestock operations of variable intensities. Farms authorized for supplementary feeding of threatened scavengers should avoid supplying carcasses with active antibiotic residues to avoid bacterial resistance in scavenger wildlife.
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