Background 2 commentsupdate:Mar 10, 2016

No shortcuts in antibiotic reduction

The reduction of antibiotics in livestock production is an inevitability. The question is now how and when it will be achieved and to what extent. What is clear is that there can be no shortcuts in this process.

Recently I was in a discussion about antibiotics reduction at a seminar during the new animal husbandry exhibition VIV MEA in Abu Dhabi. Some of the attendees had difficulties believing that poultry production without in feed antibiotics could be a viable way to produce in the near future. And indeed, when production is tuned into the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics or growth promotors, it is not easy to do without.

It will ask for a different way of managing farms and birds and it will take a different mind-set as well. It's like driving a car without a seatbelt on, it gives you an uncomfortable feeling, but with enough precautions it doesn't have to be more dangerous.

The poultry industry's role in antibiotic resistant bacteria

The reduction of antibiotics is all about reducing bacteria resistance. The poultry industry plays a role in the occurrence of antibiotic resistant bacteria causing health issues and even death in humans. How big that role is, is under discussion. However, the utmost should be done to reduce the role to the bare minimum. That said, treating a sick animal can never be part of the discussion. Not treating sick birds will have severe adverse effects on animal welfare with possible negative societal fallout and also on profit margins.

Stopping antibiotic for preventative use and growth promotion

However, in stopping the use of antibiotics for preventive measures or growth promotion, there cannot be any shortcuts. If the poultry industry takes the concerns of the public and human health officials seriously, preventive use of antibiotics is ruled out altogether.

Many countries have imposed a ban, or will do so within a short time span, on in feed antibiotics. But what about other preventive usage such as in ovo medication or usage of antibiotics like Zinc Bacitracin which aren't seen as 'real' antibiotics by some?


  • Javad Fazlinia

    Thanks Dear Fabian for your attractive article. In Iran we have so many problem with viral and bacterial disease in broiler farms with high morbidity and mortality rate. But Since 5years ago we achieve procedures to produce antibiotic free chicken meat. Totally we consider two type of prophylaxis , bacterial and viral without any antibiotic or chemical growth promotor even anticoccidiosis component. Yes we could find shortcut to eliminate antibiotics and chemicals in food and water.

  • samer murr

    I don't think Bacitracin as GP has issues on human health. Research work support my opinion : I. Phillips, 1999. The use of bacitracin as a growth promoter in animals produces no risk to human health. J. Antimicrob. Chemother. (1999) 44 (6): 725-728. doi: 10.1093/jac/44.6.725.

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