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    Early life exposure of infants to benzylpenicillin and gentamicin is associated with a persistent amplification of the gut resistome

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    peer-reviewedAbstract Background Infant gut microbiota is highly malleable, but the long-term longitudinal impact of antibiotic exposure in early life, together with the mode of delivery on infant gut microbiota and resistome, is not extensively studied. Methods Two hundred and eight samples from 45 infants collected from birth until 2 years of age over five time points (week 1, 4, 8, 24, year 2) were analysed. Based on shotgun metagenomics, the gut microbial composition and resistome profile were compared in the early life of infants divided into three groups: vaginal delivery/no-antibiotic in the first 4 days of life, C-section/no-antibiotic in the first 4 days of life, and C-section/antibiotic exposed in first 4 days of life. Gentamycin and benzylpenicillin were the most commonly administered antibiotics during this cohort’s first week of life. Results Newborn gut microbial composition differed in all three groups, with higher diversity and stable composition seen at 2 years of age, compared to week 1. An increase in microbial diversity from week 1 to week 4 only in the C-section/antibiotic-exposed group reflects the effect of antibiotic use in the first 4 days of life, with a gradual increase thereafter. Overall, a relative abundance of Actinobacteria and Bacteroides was significantly higher in vaginal delivery/no-antibiotic while Proteobacteria was higher in C-section/antibiotic-exposed infants. Strains from species belonging to Bifidobacterium and Bacteroidetes were generally persistent colonisers, with Bifidobacterium breve and Bifidobacterium bifidum species being the major persistent colonisers in all three groups. Bacteroides persistence was dominant in the vaginal delivery/no-antibiotic group, with species Bacteroides ovatus and Phocaeicola vulgatus found to be persistent colonisers in the no-antibiotic groups. Most strains carrying antibiotic-resistance genes belonged to phyla Proteobacteria and Firmicutes, with the C-section/antibiotic-exposed group presenting a higher frequency of antibiotic-resistance genes (ARGs). Conclusion These data show that antibiotic exposure has an immediate and persistent effect on the gut microbiome in early life. As such, the two antibiotics used in the study selected for strains (mainly Proteobacteria) which were multiple drug-resistant (MDR), presumably a reflection of their evolutionary lineage of historical exposures—leading to what can be an extensive and diverse resistome. Video Abstrac

    Datafile: Effects of experimental drought and plant diversity on ecosystem multifunctionality

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    DatasetContains a dataset, ReadMe file and statistical code for a multivariate analysis of six agronomic responses from a field experiment that manipulated diversity from one to six plant species within multi-species mixtures. The experiment also imposed an experimental drought to investigate the effect of plant diversity and drought on the selected responses

    Kefir4All, a citizen science initiative to raise awareness of the roles that microbes play in food fermentation

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    peer-reviewedMicroorganisms are ubiquitous in nature and are central to human, animal, environmental, and planetary health. They play a particularly important role in the food chain and the production of high-quality, safe, and health-promoting foods, especially fermented foods. This important role is not always apparent to members of the public. Here, we describe Kefir4All, a citizen science project designed to provide the general public with an opportunity to expand their awareness, knowledge, and practical skills relating to microbiology, introduced through the medium of producing fermented food, i.e., milk kefir or water kefir. During the course of Kefir4All, 123 citizen scientists, from second-level school and non-school settings, participated in a study to track changes in the microbial composition of kefirs, by performing and recording details of milk kefir or water kefir fermentations they performed in their homes or schools over the 21-week project. At the start of the study, the citizen scientists were provided with milk or water kefir grains to initiate the fermentations. Both types of kefir grain are semi-solid, gelatinous-like substances, composed of exopolysaccharides and proteins, containing a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast. The experimental component of the project was complemented by a number of education and outreach events, including career talks and a site visit to our research center (Kefir Day). At the end of the study, a report was provided to each citizen scientist, in which individualized results of their fermenting activities were detailed. A number of approaches were taken to obtain feedback and other insights from the citizen scientists. Evaluations took place before and after the Kefir4All project to gauge the citizen scientist’s self-reported awareness, knowledge, and interest in microbiology and fermented foods. Further insights into the level of citizen science participation were gained through assessing the number of samples returned for analysis and the level of participation of the citizen scientists throughout the project. Notably, the survey results revealed a self-reported, increased interest in, and general knowledge of, science among the Kefir4All citizen scientists after undertaking the project and a willingness to take part in further citizen science projects. Ultimately, Kefir4All represents an example of the successful integration of citizen science into existing education and research systems

    Annual yields of multispecies grassland mesocosms outperformed monocultures across a drought gradient due to complementarity effects and rapid recovery

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    peer-reviewedDataset contains the dry matter yield from mesocosms across 12 harvests (6 in each of two years), 5 water treatments and 5 grassland communities. Mesocosms were fully randomly distributed in the glasshouse in which the trial took place

    An investigation of extracellular vesicles in bovine colostrum, first milk and milk over the lactation curve

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    peer-reviewedExtracellular vesicles (EVs) in milk have claimed benefits ranging from conveying immunological privilege to infants to being suitable as natural delivery vehicles for therapeutic drugs. However, a longitudinal study of bovine EVs quantities and characteristics in colostrum (COL), first milk (FM) and throughout the lactation curve of mature milk (MM) had never been performed and so was our aim. COL, FM and 9 months of MM samples were collected. Caseins -overlapping size with EVs- were removed. EVs were collected by density gradient ultracentrifugation and characterised by SDS-PAGE, Bradford assay, nanoparticle tracking analysis, immunoblotting, imaging flow cytometry analysis, and transmission electron microscopy. COL and FM had substantially more EVs than MM, with COL enriched in small EVs. No significant differences were observed between months 1–9 of MM. Altogether, although COL and FM are particularly rich sources of EVs, mature milk throughout the lactation curve is also an abundant source of intact EVs

    Metagenomic comparison of the faecal and environmental resistome on Irish commercial pig farms with and without zinc oxide and antimicrobial usage

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    peer-reviewedAbstract Background Antimicrobials and heavy metals such as zinc oxide (ZnO) have been commonly used on Irish commercial pig farms for a 2-week period post-weaning to help prevent infection. In 2022, the prophylactic use of antimicrobials and ZnO was banned within the European Union due to concerns associated with the emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and contamination of the environment with heavy metals. In this study, faecal and environmental samples were taken from piglets during the weaning period from ten commercial farms, of which five farms used antimicrobial or ZnO prophylaxis (AB-ZnO farms) and five which had not used antimicrobials or ZnO for the previous 3 years (AB-ZnO free farms). A total of 50 samples were compared using a metagenomic approach. Results The results of this study showed some significant differences between AB-ZnO and AB-ZnO free farms and suggested positive selection for AMR under antimicrobial and ZnO treatment. Moreover, strong differences between environmental and faecal samples on farms were observed, suggesting that the microbiome and its associated mobile genetic elements may play a key role in the composition of the resistome. Additionally, the age of piglets affected the resistome composition, potentially associated with changes in the microbiome post-weaning. Conclusions Overall, our study showed few differences in the resistome of the pig and its environment when comparing AB-ZnO farms with AB-ZnO free farms. These results suggest that although 3 years of removal of in-feed antimicrobial and ZnO may allow a reduction of AMR prevalence on AB-ZnO farms, more time, repeated sampling and a greater understanding of factors impacting AMR prevalence will be required to ensure significant and persistent change in on-farm AMR

    Assessing the feasibility, fidelity and acceptability of a behaviour change intervention to improve tractor safety on farms: protocol for the BeSafe tractor safety feasibility study

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    peer-reviewedBackground In Ireland, the agriculture sector reports the highest number of fatalities even though farmers constitute only 6% of the working population. Tractor-related behaviours are implicated in 55% of all vehicle work-related fatalities and 25% of reported injuries, and many of these occur in farmyards. There is limited research on the feasibility and acceptability of behaviour change interventions to improve tractor safety. Target behaviours that promote safe operation in farmyards, determining and addressing blind spots of tractors, were identified, and an intervention was developed following the Behaviour Change Wheel Approach. The objective of the study is to examine the feasibility, fidelity and acceptability of a behaviour change intervention to enhance the safe operation of tractors in farmyards with a particular focus on tractor blind spots. Method A single group feasibility study will be undertaken. Approximately 16 farmers from four major farm types will be recruited for the study between August and September 2022. The intervention involves an in-person demo session, facilitated discussion and personalised safety training procedure with safety goals. The study will collect data from participants at three time points: baseline (3–10 days prior to the intervention), during the intervention and at the follow-up session (7–30 days post-intervention). Quantitative data will be collected through a pre-intervention interview and feedback surveys. A pre- and post-intervention qualitative interview will also be conducted with the participants and will be supplemented with qualitative data from recruitment logs, observational memos and logs and feedback from recruiters. Evaluation of the feasibility, acceptability and fidelity of the intervention will be guided by a pre-determined feasibility checklist, fidelity framework and theoretical framework of acceptability, respectively. Interviews will be analysed using the content analysis. Discussion The current study can determine the feasibility and fidelity of delivering a systematic, theoretically driven, tailored behaviour change intervention. It will also assess whether the intervention, its ingredients and delivery are acceptable to the farming population. This study will also inform the development of a future larger trial to test the effectiveness of the intervention. Trial registration ISRCTN Identifier: ISRCTN22219089. Date applied 29 July 202

    Transformation of Sitka spruce stands to continuous cover forestry (CCF): Synergies and trade-off

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    peer-reviewedSitka spruce is commonly planted in Ireland because it has fast growth and is suitable for the available markets. At the end of the forest rotation, a plantation forest is often harvested during a single operation (clearfelled) and then replanted. Over the last two decades there has been increasing interest in alternative forest management practices that do not require all of the trees to be felled at the same time. To research alternatives to clearfelling, the DAFM-funded ContinuFOR project trials different thinning options to transform an even-aged Sitka spruce plantation to continuous cover forestry (CCF)

    Understanding the underlying genetic mechanisms for age at first calving, inter-calving period and scrotal circumference in Bonsmara cattle

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    peer-reviewedBackground Reproduction is a key feature of the sustainability of a species and thus represents an important component in livestock genetic improvement programs. Most reproductive traits are lowly heritable. In order to gain a better understanding of the underlying genetic basis of these traits, a genome-wide association was conducted for age at first calving (AFC), first inter-calving period (ICP) and scrotal circumference (SC) within the South African Bonsmara breed. Phenotypes and genotypes (120,692 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) post editing) were available on 7,128 South African Bonsmara cattle; the association analyses were undertaken using linear mixed models. Results Genomic restricted maximum likelihood analysis of the 7,128 SA Bonsmara cattle yielded genomic heritability’s of 0.183 (SE = 0.021) for AFC, 0.207 (SE = 0.022) for ICP and 0.209 (SE = 0.019) for SC. A total of 16, 23 and 51 suggestive (P ≤ 4 × 10-6) SNPs were associated with AFC, ICP and SC, while 11, 11 and 44 significant (P ≤ 4 × 10-7) SNPs were associated with AFC, ICP and SC respectively. A total of 11 quantitative trait loci (QTL) and 11 candidate genes were co-located with these associated SNPs for AFC, with 10 QTL harbouring 11 candidate genes for ICP and 41 QTL containing 40 candidate genes for SC. The QTL identified were close to genes previously associated with carcass, fertility, growth and milk-related traits. The biological pathways influenced by these genes include carbohydrate catabolic processes, cellular development, iron homeostasis, lipid metabolism and storage, immune response, ovarian follicle development and the regulation of DNA transcription and RNA translation. Conclusions This was the first attempt to study the underlying polymorphisms associated with reproduction in South African beef cattle. Genes previously reported in cattle breeds for numerous traits bar AFC, ICP or SC were detected in this study. Over 20 different genes have not been previously reported in beef cattle populations and may have been associated due to the unique genetic composite background of the SA Bonsmara breed

    Barriers and opportunities of soil knowledge to address soil challenges: Stakeholders’ perspectives across Europe

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    peer-reviewedClimate-smart sustainable management of agricultural soil is critical to improve soil health, enhance food and water security, contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity preservation, and improve human health and wellbeing. The European Joint Programme for Soil (EJP SOIL) started in 2020 with the aim to significantly improve soil management knowledge and create a sustainable and integrated European soil research system. EJP SOIL involves more than 350 scientists across 24 Countries and has been addressing multiple aspects associated with soil management across different European agroecosystems. This study summarizes the key findings of stakeholder consultations conducted at the national level across 20 countries with the aim to identify important barriers and challenges currently affecting soil knowledge but also assess opportunities to overcome these obstacles. Our findings demonstrate that there is significant room for improvement in terms of knowledge production, dissemination and adoption. Among the most important barriers identified by consulted stakeholders are technical, political, social and economic obstacles, which strongly limit the development and full exploitation of the outcomes of soil research. The main soil challenge across consulted member states remains to improve soil organic matter and peat soil conservation while soil water storage capacity is a key challenge in Southern Europe. Findings from this study clearly suggest that going forward climate-smart sustainable soil management will benefit from (1) increases in research funding, (2) the maintenance and valorisation of long-term (field) experiments, (3) the creation of knowledge sharing networks and interlinked national and European infrastructures, and (4) the development of regionally-tailored soil management strategies. All the above-mentioned interventions can contribute to the creation of healthy, resilient and sustainable soil ecosystems across Europe


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