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MCTC student researchers given a statewide audience

Minnesota Undergraduate Scholars poster
presentation conference at the State

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), it’s difficult to treat new infections with antibiotics. As a result, it’s estimated that antibiotic-resistant infections are responsible for at least 23,000 deaths per year. The World Health Organization declared the emergence of antibiotic-resistant infections as a threat to public health.

Three MCTC students Gregory Rossi (GB), Alma Boric, and Victoria Krawiec, under the guidance of biology faculty member and Faculty Lead, School of Science and Mathematics, Dr. Renu Bhagat Kumar, have been engaged in research and analysis about this critical issue for more than six months. They were chosen to present their findings at the Minnesota Undergraduate Scholars poster presentation conference at the State Capitol. The students shared their work with legislators and other leaders in state government, drawing attention to the important work being done on Minnesota State campuses.

Students link feed-additive antibiotics to specific resistant bacterial strains

As the students began their initial research, under the guidance of Dr. Kumar, they noted feed-additive antibiotics are commonplace in industrial farming. The additives are used therapeutically and/or prophylactically to promote animal health, primarily in high-density, high-volume commercial farms. The students reviewed numerous papers linking feed-additive antibiotics to specific resistant bacterial strains found in farm animals and food products.

"The relationship between antibiotic usage in animal feed and bacterial resistance is a continual subject of study, particularly as it relates to the transfer of resistant bacteria throughout the food chain,” reported the students, who are concerned about the potential negative impacts on human health. "Use of antibiotics in farms increases antibiotic resistant bacteria in the environment. Additionally, people who live close to these environments harbor relatively high levels of resistant normal microflora on their skin or in their intestinal tracts."

The students engaged in analysis to develop an understanding of the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant microbes across farm fields. "In addition to reviewing existing research, we collected soil and water samples, isolated and purified 47 bacterial colonies and conducted an in-depth analysis," said the student researchers. "Our preliminary results indicated that several of these bacteria were resistant to ampicillin, penicillin and sensitive to tetracycline."

Students develop critical and analytical thinking skills

"The students were enthusiastic to determine the correlation between the prevalence of antibiotic resistant microbes and industrial farming," said Dean Chuck Paulson who was also impressed at how Dr. Kumar encouraged students to develop critical and analytical thinking skills in their work both inside and outside of the classroom. MCTC President, Dr. Sharon Pierce commented, "The thorough and comprehensive research conducted by the students with the support of faculty elevates the reputation of the College and the state educational system and provides the students involved a chance to correlate what they learn in the classroom to global issues."

Minnesota Undergraduate Scholars is a consortium of institutions that supports the research, scholarly works and creative activity of undergraduates by providing avenues for funding, presentation resources and opportunities for them to present their work. The organization is committed to engaging undergraduate students throughout the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system in scholarly activities that enrich their collegiate experience, open doors to career opportunities and lead to a life-long love of learning.