Submitted to: Animal Health Research Reviews
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/29/2013
Publication Date: 5/23/2013
Citation: Seal, B.S., Gay, C.G., Lillehoj, H.S., Donovan, D.M. 2013. Alternatives to antibiotics: a symposium on the challenges and solutions for animal production. Animal Health Research Reviews. 14(1):78-87.
Interpretive Summary: Antibiotics have been used for more than 50 years to combat bacterial infections and production of antibiotics began with penicillin in the late 1940s that proceeded with great success until the 1970s-1980s when it became more challenging to discover new and useful antimicrobial products. Furthermore, antibiotic resistance development among bacterial pathogens has become a major concern worldwide that is accompanied by the fact that many major pharmaceutical companies have abandoned the development of new antibiotics, leaving much of the discovery efforts to small enterprises, new companies and the biotechnology industry. Although antibiotic growth promoters (AGP) have been utilized during food-animal production since their efficacy was first described during the 1940’s, the exact modes of action are not fully understood and are probably multi-factorial. Sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feeds was discontinued in the European Union during 2003 due to the belief that antibiotic use by humans and in food animals selects for the development of antibiotic resistance among food-borne bacteria that could complicate public health therapies. Therefore, reducing AGPs creates challenges for the animal feed and feed additive industries such that effective alternatives to AGPs are urgently needed to maintain current animal production levels without threatening public health. Because of the need for alternative or novel approaches to conventional antibiotics a symposium entitled “Alternatives to Antibiotics: Challenges and Solutions in Animal Production” (http://www.ars.usda.gov/alternativestoantibiotics/) was hosted by The World Organization for Animal Health (formerly OIE, Office of International Epizootes) during September 2012 that focused on novel antimicrobials for animal production, animal health and food safety. The conference was focused on several approaches that included reports on natural alternative antimicrobials, immune modulator approaches to enhance disease resistance, the gut microbiome and regulatory paths to license new antimicrobials.
Technical Abstract: Antibiotics are one of the most important medical discoveries of the 20th century and will remain an essential tool for treating animal and human diseases in the 21st century. However, antibiotic resistance among bacterial pathogens and concerns over their prudent use in animals has garnered global interest. The availability of medical interventions to prevent and control animal diseases on the farm will directly impact global food security as well as animal and human health. Insufficient attention has been given to the scientific breakthroughs and novel technologies that provide alternatives to antibiotics. The objectives of the symposium “Alternatives to Antibiotics” held during September of 2012 at the World Organization for Animal Health in Paris France were to highlight promising research results and novel technologies that could potentially provide alternatives to conventional antibiotics and assess challenges associated with their commercialization to help provide actionable strategies to support their development. The symposium focused on the latest scientific breakthroughs and technologies that could provide new options and alternative strategies for preventing and treating diseases of animals. Some of these new technologies have direct applications as medical interventions for human health, but the focus of the symposium was animal production, animal health and food safety during food-animal production. Five subject areas were explored in detail through scientific presentations and expert panel discussions including: 1. Alternatives to antibiotics, lessons from nature; 2. Immune modulation approaches to enhance disease resistance and treat animal diseases; 3. The gut microbiome and immune development, health and diseases; 4. Alternatives to antibiotics for animal production and; 5. Regulatory pathways to enable the licensure of alternatives to antibiotics.