Compost Magazine

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Earth ​​Worms Can Eliminate Antibiotic Resistant Genes Says New Study

3rd March 2023

In news that will warm the heart of vermicomposters everywhere, a new study has revealed that earthworms can help drastically reduce the impact of antibiotic-resistant bacteria spread by food waste. 

The study focused on how antibiotic-resistant genes occur and spread in food waste and ways to reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant genes by vermicomposting this waste. 

Hundreds of millions of tons of food waste are produced by the household sector annually – an issue that is a major cause of the spread of antibiotic-resistant genes. 

What are antibiotic-resistant genes?

Antibiotic-resistant genes are genes found in bacteria that allow them to resist the effects of antibiotics. They can also share their resistance with other bacteria which have not been exposed to antibiotics. 

This means that antibiotics can no longer be used to treat infections caused by these bacteria. 

The spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a huge concern for scientists, who fear that it could reverse some of the huge health gains made since the discovery of antibiotics. 

It was discovered that food waste-borne antibiotic-resistant genes and human pathogens can be greatly reduced in the earthworm guts. 

This was partly caused by the worms’ immune responses.  

The performance could be improved further by including agricultural waste in the composting process and enforcing aeration. A side benefit of this was better compost at the end of the process.

What’s more, feeding the worms the right microbes could help improve the ability of worms to eliminate anti-biotic genes even further. 

The study concluded that worms can play an important role in reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant genes. 

The findings of this study provide a glimmer of hope in the fight against antibiotic resistance genes. 

With the help of worms, it is possible to reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant genes which could protect us from the dangers of antibiotic resistance genes.

The study also adds to existing knowledge that composting can help reduce harmful pathogens in compost.

Worms are just one of many ways in which composting helps eliminate, with pathogens also killed by heat and beneficial microbes. 

Read more: 

Why You Need Worms in Your Compost | The Pathogen-Destroying Power of Compost

External links

Fang et al, 2023, Can Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Household Food Waste be Reduced by Earthworm Vermicomposting? Underpinning Mechanisms and Strategies