College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Environmental Science & Technology

ENST Student Pioneers Method to Measure Ionophores in Poultry Litter

State-of-the-art liquid chromatograph, triple quadrupole mass spectrometer or LC/MS-MS.

There are at least two reasons ENST soil and watershed sciences graduate student, Saptashati 'Tania' Biswas, should be proud of. First, she published a scientific article on an original chromatographic method to detect antimicrobials in poultry litter; second, her research poster on the same subject, won the 2013 AGNR Open House poster competition.

Anticoccidials, also known as ionophores, are widely used for growth-promotion in poultry feed and to treat Coccidiosis, a parasitic disease. In the US, there is an increasing concern regarding the persistence of these anticoccidials in the environment. However, little method development has been done for measuring ionophores in complex environmental matrices, such as poultry litter and soil.

Tania’s publication titled “Quantification of ionophores in aged poultry litter using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry”, offers an innovative chromatographic method to detect antimicrobials in poultry litter. “The instrument I used is the latest, state-of-the-art liquid chromatograph, triple quadrupole mass spectrometer or LC/MS-MS,” describes Tania.

As ionophores can efficiently spread into the surrounding ecosystem- water, soil and crops, can easily get contaminated. “When we consume poultry meat and plants grown in soil-water containing antimicrobials, we are constantly exposed to these compounds, even if it is in trace levels,” says Tania.  According to her, fatal effects on humans due to accidental exposure in high doses have already been reported in medical journals. “Learning more about antimicrobials in the environment and how they move through the soil-water ecosystem, will help us better manage their use in poultry farming,” adds Tania, who is using her method to study mobility of antimicrobials in Delmarva soils.

Tania noted that she is studying 'emerging contaminants', meaning that are not regularly analyzed by EPA or other government institutions. “The method that we have developed is one of the pioneering ones in this field, which I hope other scientists will adopt one day,” says Tania.

Tania's research has won various awards, including poster competition at 2013 AGNR Open House, the Bio Science Day Poster at UMD, and Soil and Environmental Quality Graduate Student Research Award (500$) by the Soil Science Society of America. In 2013, her research received the SARE graduate student grant of $14,754.  

ENST Department Chair Dr. William Bowerman is delighted to learn that graduate students are continuously working towards solving environmental science issues. “Tania has studied a highly interesting and demanding topic, and we are proud she has taken her research beyond the theoretical level to develop a novel method to detect antimicrobials in poultry litter,” states Dr. Bowerman.

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