Research title:

Use of antimicrobials in farm animals and its impact on public health and the environment: quantification of antimicrobials presence in soil and manure 

Tutor: Prof. Petra P. Cagnardi


Contact details

Dept. of Health, Animal Science and Food Safety (VESPA)

University of Milan

Via Celoria, 10

20133 Milano Italy

Tel: +39 02 50317908

e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


State of the Art

cagnardi1In intensive animal farming, mass medication implicates the administration of large amounts of antimicrobial drugs. Some of these drugs are scarcely metabolized in the animal body and eliminated as such; others are metabolized and eliminated as active or inactive metabolites. Since manure from intensive animal farms is commonly used for the fertilization of agricultural soils, an environmental load of drug residues may result. These residues may also be transferred from soil to surface waters by rain runoff. 

The EU guideline on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for veterinary medicinal products (VMPs; EMEA/CVMP/ERA/418282/2005-Rev.1; 1 March 2009), together with the International Cooperation on Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Registration of Veterinary Medicinal Products (VICH) guidelines 6 and 38, provide a common basis for the evaluation of the environmental risk due to the use of VMPs. Risk assessment is the evaluation of the possible fate, exposure and effects of the VMPs and is mandatory for all the new authorisations for veterinary drugs in the EU. For the already authorised drugs, the evaluation is not mandatory, and thus the real scenario of environmental exposure to antimicrobials is still incomplete. The environmental consequences resulting from the soil fertilization with drug-contaminated manure represent a topic of increasing interest. An emerging concern is the occurrence and the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Additionally, the persistence of veterinary antimicrobials in the environment may represent a toxicological risk for non-target organisms.



Aim of the project

The aim of the project is to evaluate the role of intensive animal farming as potential source of environmental antimicrobial contamination and resistance and as potential cause of toxic effects on non-target organisms. Analyses will be carried out in order to generate data on antimicrobial concentrations, antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs) and microbial community composition of animal manure and soil before and after the application of manure. The toxic effects on non-target organisms of the soil and freshwater compartments will be also investigated.

Samples (i.e. manure/slurry and soil) will be collected from intensive animal farms (i.e. chickens, cattle and swine), where intensive animal farming is widespread. All samples will be screened for detecting and quantifying the environmental load of the most commonly used antimicrobials (i.e. beta-lactams, fluoroquinolones, polymyxins and macrolides) by HPLC methods. In collaboration with the Padua University, samples from the farms with the highest concentration of antimicrobials detected in preliminary HPLC screening will be then analysed for assessing the prevalence and the diversity of ARGs to multiple antimicrobial classes by quantitative PCR; the microbial community composition of the same samples will be determined by employing a culture independent approach based on metagenomics and NGS-sequencing. All the active ingredients detected in fertilized soils and surrounding waters will be tested on model organisms by following the ecotoxicity test official guidelines.

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 Recent publications of the tutor in the field

1. C. Ferraresi, L. Lucatello, V. Meucci, L. Intorre, G. Grilli, A. Piccirillo, E. Russo, R. Villa, C. Montesissa, P. Cagnardi (2013) Pharmacokinetic/Pharmacodynamic evaluation of the efficacy of flumequine in treating colibacillosis in turkeys. Poultry Science, 92 (12), 3158-3165, doi: 10.3382/ps.2013-03460.

2. M. Vanni, V. Meucci, R. Tognetti, P. Cagnardi, C. Montesissa, A. Piccirillo, A. M. Rossi, D. Di Bello, L. Intorre (2014). Fluoroquinolone resistance and molecular characterization of gyrA and parC QRDRs in Escherichia coli isolated from poultry. Poultry Science, 93(4), 856-863 doi:10.3382/ps.2013-03627.

3. Cagnardi P., Ferraresi C. Lucatello L., Meucci V., Intorre L., Grilli G., Piccirillo A., Giacomelli M., Montesissa C. (2014) Enrofloxacin against E. coli in turkeys: which treatment scheme is effective? Poultry Science, 93 (7), 1667-1674, doi: 10.3382/ps.2014-03886.

4. L. Lucatello, P. Cagnardi, F. Capolongo, C. Ferraresi, F. Bernardi, C. Montesissa (2015). Development and validation of a LC-MS/MS/MS method for the quantification of fluoroquinolones in several matrices from treated turkeys. Food Control, 48; 2-11, doi: 10.1016/j.foodcont.2014.04.011

5. P Cagnardi, R Villa, G Ravasio, L Lucatello, F Di Cesare, F Capolongo, A Boccardo, D Pravettoni (2017). Pharmacokinetics and sedative effects of dexmedetomidine in dairy calves. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 65 (1), 14-17; doi: 10.1080/00480169.2016.1237313.