TYLER, TX (KLTV) - A super bug found in Texas cattle yards has become airborne, and scientists worry it could not only spread quickly to other cattle across the state, but also to humans. Researchers at Texas Tech University discovered an antibiotic-resistant bacteria in several cattle yards near Lubbock. They also found it in air downwind of the yards.
"Making it airborne, you know, you consider that, and it's something that could hurt," Jeremy Mcleod, who owns nearly 200 cattle in East Texas, said.
He explained the cattle community in East Texas hasn't heard about this antibiotic-resistant airborne bacteria yet, but he's always checking with the USDA and monitoring potential threats.
"It's on the radar for sure and I think that that's just a good cattleman. You're going to always be watching out for your cows and thinking about things that could help," he said.
Researchers said this is the first time something like this has been found in the air. The West Texas area has more cattle than East Texas, however, and also more wind.
"The smaller particles are able to stay suspended in the air for a longer period of time and are therefore able to travel much greater distances," Philip Smith, one of the researchers, said.
Dr. Sirini Kambhampati, with the UT Tyler biology department, said national use of antibiotics in cattle as a growth agent is causing problems.
"We overuse antibiotics. As a result of which, there is a huge proportion of bacteria that is antibiotic resistant," Dr. Khambhampati said.
That's part of why Mcleod avoids using any antibiotics in his cows unless they are truly sick.
"We try to let the cows be cows and let them raise their babies the best that they can," Mcleod said.
As for the risk to humans, Khambhampati said it is likely quite low.
"Just because you breathe in some bacteria doesn't mean doesn't mean they're going to infect you. The conditions have to be right," he explained.
Still, cause for concern about the new pathway this bacteria has chosen. The research on this bacteria will be published next month in environmental health perspectives.