Scientists from the United States have joined forces with Asia’s most prestigious universities to develop alternatives to antibiotics for global livestock production.
Researchers from Perdue University have partnered with the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) and University of Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan in a bid to slow down the worldwide development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
They want to find novel, effectives and affordable alternatives to using traditional antibiotics in Pakistan’s growing poultry industry.
Professor Paul Ebner, professor of animal science at Perdue, said the more antibiotics were used in the poultry industry, the more bacteria are exposed to and acquire antibiotic resistant genes.
“Antibiotic resistance is totally borderless,” he added.
While there are many drivers for increases in global antibiotic resistance, including overuse of antibiotics in human medicines, both Pakistan and the US have restricted the use of antibiotics in livestock to slow down the development of resistant bacteria.
The researchers will develop non-antibiotic compounds that, when combined, are as effective as antibiotics in preventing and treating diseases or improving bird growth, but without the threat of antibiotic resistance.
The three year, multimillion dollar project has won backing from the UK Department of Health and Social Care, the Global AMR Innovation Fund and the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa, Canada.
Talat Naseer Pasha, meritorious professor and vice chancellor of UVAS, said: “UVAS is one of the oldest educational institutes in Asia. We are working with diverse fields of life sciences and we are pleased to be a lead institution contributing to this important project.”
The strategy is to make bacteria sick, according to Prof Ebner, who said bacteria had viruses just like humans. These bacteriophages target specific bacteria – Salmonella – for example – by injecting their DNA into a bacterial cell, which then makes copies of the virus until the bacterial cell explodes.
While bacteriophages can reduce specific problem-causing bacteria, the research team is also investigating the use of phytochemicals or “nutraceuticals” extracted from different agrowastes common in Pakistan, such as mango peels, to enhance poultry growth and feed efficiency.
“It is highly unlikely we will ever find a single compound that does all that an antibiotic can do. But it’s very likely we can create a cocktail of compounds, each with its own role, that collectively produces the same benefits,” added UVAS Professor Zafar Hayat.
Researchers will then go one step further as the project as a significant social science component that aims to identify and develop strategies to overcome economic, social and regulatory barriers to commercialising these compounds
“The consumer perception regarding newly developed alternatives to antibiotics will be the key driver in their utilisation,” according to Prof Hayat.
An industry advisory body composed of Pakistani poultry producers and animal health professionals will guide the researchers to ensure the project stays focused on practical solutions and that the compounds are both effective and above all used.