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ICASA solicits research concepts to address cattle, swine disease

Research proposals aimed at developing tools to identify animals at highest risk of infectious diseases and those that would benefit most from metaphylaxis treatment.

The International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture (ICASA), a public/private partnership focused on antibiotic stewardship in animal agriculture, is soliciting calls for research concepts related to metaphylaxis, an approach to controlling infectious diseases in beef cattle and swine.

Infectious disease outbreaks in cattle and pigs can be difficult to detect and prevent with the tools that are currently available, ICASA said. As a result, it can be challenging to know the best time to treat animals and which animals will benefit most from treatment.

Without the proper tools to identify affected animals, diseases spread rapidly and can have significant impacts for producers, ICASA said, pointing to one of the most prevalent and economically important diseases affecting cattle: bovine respiratory disease (BRD), which affects approximately 20% of cattle and costs producers $800-900 million annually.

One approach to treating and controlling BRD and other infectious diseases is called metaphylaxis, in which a group of animals is treated at the same time to prevent the disease from spreading and affecting as many animals. However, it is a challenge to know when to use metaphylaxis and how to best identify and exclude animals that may not need treatment, ICASA said.

More accurate detection tools and strategies are needed to better predict the occurrence of infectious diseases in cattle and pigs while enhancing animal welfare and preserving the economic sustainability of the industry.

ICASA is soliciting research concepts to develop tools that enable producers and veterinarians to identify the animals at highest risk of infectious diseases and those that would benefit most from treatment, ICASA said, suggesting that such tools would enable more targeted approaches to metaphylaxis.

Separately, ICASA said researchers should address how metaphylaxis affects the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance and/or develop health and management practices that improve health outcomes in beef cattle and pigs.

“ICASA is working across the industry to tackle the complicated problem of when and how to best administer antibiotics in livestock to improve animal welfare,” said Dr. Sally Rockey, executive director of the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR), which oversees ICASA. “We are looking forward to reviewing proposals for strategies and technologies that improve metaphylaxis and ensure the judicious use of antibiotics."

Additional information about the call for research concepts is available on the ICASA website. Pre-applications are due June 17, 2020, and must be submitted via FFAR’s online portal. Applications will be reviewed by ICASA participants and will be evaluated on a variety of factors, including the potential for supply chain implementation, potential for impact, likelihood for successful completion, originality, key personnel qualifications and strength of partnerships.

FFAR created ICASA in 2019 to facilitate research that promotes the judicious use of antibiotics, advances animal health and welfare and increases transparency in food production practices.

FFAR’s initial $7.5 million investment in ICASA was matched by consortium participants for a total investment of $15 million in antimicrobial stewardship research. ICASA’s founding participants include: Advanced Animal Diagnostics, Beef Alliance, Cactus Research, FFAR, HyPlains Research & Education Center, JBS USA, McDonald’s, National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., National Pork Board, Noble Research Institute, Pipestone Veterinary Services, Tyson Foods, U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and Veterinary Research & Consulting Services.

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