The journal Veterinary Research recently published a special edition on new techniques that may provide alternatives to antibiotics in animals. This compilation of research resulted from the 2nd International Symposium on Alternatives to Antibiotics, co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The symposium brought together academics, government agency officials, and animal industry representatives from around the world to discuss the challenges of commercializing these products, and how to overcome them.
Alternatives to antibiotics are essential tools for minimizing the need for these drugs, and commercial operations already successfully utilize them to reduce antibiotic use and increase animal productivity. However, certain shortcomings—such as the difficulty of administering them, their relatively high cost compared with traditional antibiotics, or their variable effectiveness—have so far hindered their ability to substitute for antibiotics on a broader scale. Highlighted below are four research innovations or advancements that show promise for enhancing these products’ attractiveness as antibiotic alternatives, and the scientific community is excited about them.
The majority of these alternatives are still in the early stages of product development—which makes symposia such as USDA’s and OIE’s all the more imperative to driving progress. This international conference, and the numerous peer-reviewed articles that stem from it, provides not only guidance on product development for scientists and financial investors, but also optimism that by working together, the global agricultural research community can solve challenges related to the commercial development of alternative products.
Karin Hoelzer works on The Pew Charitable Trusts’ safe food and antibiotic resistance projects; Nora Wong works on the antibiotic resistance project.