Is Antibiotic Use Effective to Prevent Disease in Food-Producing Animals?

Pew to support analysis of existing scientific data, identify gaps

Is Antibiotic Use Effective to Prevent Disease in Food-Producing Animals?
Drug label refinements for animal antibiotic use

Antibiotics are crucial to protecting the health of people and animals, but any use endangers their efficacy as bacteria develop resistance to them over time. Each year, at least 23,000 Americans die and some 2 million are sickened from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. To help preserve the effectiveness of these lifesaving drugs, Pew’s antibiotic resistance project works to promote antibiotic stewardship in both human medicine and animal agriculture. For food-producing animals, this means trying to prevent animals from becoming sick and using antibiotics judiciously when they are needed.

“Disease prevention” is defined as the administration of antibiotics to animals that are not exhibiting clinical signs of disease but are at increased risk of infection. This practice is controversial, and some countries have moved to restrict the use of medically important antibiotics for disease prevention. Yet there has been little rigorous analysis in the U.S. of the existing scientific evidence regarding the efficacy of administering medically important antibiotics to food animals for prevention purposes. Pew is committed to supporting research that will survey and synthesize available data on the efficacy of preventive uses of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals in order to provide a scientific foundation to this debate. Specifically, the research will address three key questions.

First, what scientific evidence is available to show a demonstrated animal health benefit from different preventive uses of medically important antibiotics? Second, what key data gaps exist in the scientific evidence, and how do they impede the ability to make a determination about the efficacy of preventive uses of antibiotics? And third, what research is needed to fill those gaps?

Pew is planning to support research to help answer these questions, inform efforts to reduce the use of antibiotics without harm to animal health, and guide future scientific studies. If you or your organization is interested in learning more about this research opportunity, please email [email protected] for the Request for Proposals (RFP) form.

To preserve these lifesaving drugs and protect both human and animal health, we need to synthesize the science that has already been done, find the gaps in that knowledge, and fill in the missing pieces.

Karin Hoelzer, a veterinarian, works on The Pew Charitable Trusts’ antibiotic resistance and safe food projects.

Any entity interested in receiving the full RFP and being given the opportunity to submit a proposal should submit an expression of interest (EOI) by 5 p.m. EST on December 20, 2017, by email to [email protected]. The Pew Charitable Trusts will distribute the full RFP with additional details on timing, evaluation and proposal criteria, terms and conditions, and due diligence to those entities that have submitted an EOI by such date, and any other entities at its discretion. EOIs are not binding; submission of an EOI does not obligate a respondent to submit a proposal. Proposals must be received by February 1, 2018, to receive consideration. Questions regarding the RFP should be submitted by 5 p.m. EST on December 21, 2017. 

PLEASE NOTE: If you requested the RFP via e-mail and have not yet received it, please send a new email to [email protected] and cc Rick Heyeck ([email protected]). Due to technical difficulties some e-mails may not have been received. The dates for submission of EOIs and proposals have been extended due to these technical difficulties.