Alternative approaches help optimize responsible antibiotic use

Antibiotics will continue to be vital for animal health and welfare, but immunostimulants offer novel approach to mitigating diseases.

The topic of antibiotic resistance is widely discussed globally and is important for both human and veterinary health. With development of antibiotic resistance a growing concern, the animal health and livestock production industries are faced with increasing pressure to use antibiotics more prudently and reduce overall use without compromising animal health and welfare.

Last week, Bayer hosted a scientific roundtable on antibiotics in animal health, which was held in Budapest, Hungary, at the Antimicrobial Agents in Veterinary Medicine conference. Roundtable participants discussed the role antibiotics will continue to play in animal health and welfare and emphasized the importance of responsible use as key to mitigating antibiotic resistance and how alternative approaches will be needed.

Professor Peter Silley of the University of Bradford in Southampton, U.K., moderator of the roundtable, said, “Antibiotics are necessary in veterinary treatment, and concerted efforts that involve all stakeholders are needed to address antibiotic resistance. The roundtable discussion resulted in two clear messages: The health and welfare of animals remain a priority, and we see alternative and novel approaches as key to mitigating infectious diseases, ultimately reducing the overall need for interventions with antibiotics.”

Professor Peter Borriello, chief executive of the U.K. Veterinary Medicines Directorate, added, “There is growing attention on the resistance of bacteria, and one of the areas in the spotlight is the use of antibiotics in veterinary health. This concern over antibiotic resistance has captured the attention of regulators and politicians around the world. The topic is high on the agenda at inter-governmental meetings, and there is increasing pressure to reduce overall antibiotic use.”

Speaking at the roundtable, professor Joseph Blondeau from the University of Saskatchewan's Faculty of Pathology identified the core contributors to resistance as: overuse, under-dosing, incorrect therapy and product misuse.

“We have the responsibility to use the right antibiotic at the right dosage, when there is a clear need for treatment, in humans as well as in animals,” Blondeau said.

The group discussed alternative approaches as an essential strategy to address the clear need to reduce over-reliance on antimicrobials.

“There are no alternatives to antibiotics when treatment is needed for a diseased animal. However, by optimizing the resilience of animals, producers can provide the best opportunity for animals to quickly return to health and recover from illness, depression and adversity," explained professor Johanna Fink-Gremmels with the Institute of Risk Assessment Sciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. "The ability to be resilient and tolerant to diseases is dependent on a number of factors, which vary depending on the type of disease, including the genetics, husbandry and nutrition of the animal.”

Bayer manager of veterinary services Dr. Jason Nickell pointed to bovine respiratory disease (BRD) as one of the most devastating diseases affecting the beef cattle industry and an area where novel technology is already being applied to stimulate the animal’s innate immune system.

“There are three important factors (that have an influence on) the effect of BRD: the host (calf), the pathogen and the environment. Current tools and management practices, including antibiotics, are limited to affecting the pathogen and environment — (but) not the host," Nickell said. "By expanding our focus across all three parameters, we can limit the effects of BRD in calves while optimizing their resilience, welfare and performance.”

Stimulation of the innate immune system is an area with great potential for further development, Bayer said. Novel immunostimulants are already demonstrating clear benefits in reducing BRD-associated mortality and, in some cases, reducing the overall use of antibiotics.

“We see clear benefits with novel immunostimulants in BRD therapy," Nickell continued. "They have helped reduce BRD-associated mortality, and we also see a trend in improved treatment outcomes when immunostimulants are used alongside antimicrobial therapy. This is encouraging, and we are confident that novel immunostimulants can support the responsible use of antibiotics and perhaps an overall reduction in antibiotic use over the long term.”

The key outtakes from the roundtable discussion can be viewed on the Bayer4Animals YouTube channel at

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