Submitted to: Trends in Microbiology
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/1/2012
Publication Date: 3/4/2013
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/56315
Citation: Allen, H.K., Levine, U.Y., Looft, T.P., Bandrick, M.M., Casey, T. 2013. Treatment, promotion, commotion: Antibiotic alternatives in food-producing animals. Trends in Microbiology. 21(3):114-119. Interpretive Summary: Antibiotics for animal production are the most cost-effective product for treating disease, preventing disease, and promoting growth. However, the use of antibiotics in animals for growth-promoting purposes is currently being restricted in the U.S., and further restrictions on antibiotics of human medical importance are expected in the future. Cheap and effective alternatives to antibiotics in animal agriculture are therefore urgently needed. Here we provide a unique synthesis of the problem and a brief overview of the main antibiotic alternatives, including feed additives, phage therapy, and vaccines. It is unknown how antibiotics promote growth and there are likely many mechanisms involved, so combinations of alternatives show the most promise. More research needs to be applied using high-throughput technologies to more precisely define what is happening in growth promotion and to discover what alternatives will be the most efficacious.
Technical Abstract: Alternatives to antibiotics in animal agriculture are urgently needed but present a complex problem because of their various uses: disease treatment, disease prevention, and feed efficiency improvement. Numerous antibiotic alternatives, such as feed amended with pre- and probiotics, have been proposed but show limited success. This is because a basic understanding of how antibiotics improve feed efficiency is lacking, and because any given alternative is unlikely to embody all of the functions of antibiotics. More research that uses high-throughput technology needs to be applied to the problem, and informed combinations of alternatives need to be considered.