The comments came at a roundtable held earlier this week in Budapest, Hungary which discussed alternative approaches in animal medicine to help fast-track the responsible use of antibiotics in farming.
Speaking at the roundtable, Professor Johanna Fink-Gremmels, from the Institute of Risk Assessment Sciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, said finding alternative solutions to antibiotics was essential to the future of animal and human health.
“There are no alternatives to antibiotics when treatment is needed for a diseased animal. However, by optimising the resilience of animals, producers can provide the best opportunity for animals to quickly return to health and recover from illness, depression and adversity.
“The ability to be resilient and tolerant to diseases is dependent on a number of factors, which vary dependent on the type of disease, including the genetics, husbandry and nutrition of the animal.”
At the roundtable, experts suggested that immunostimulants offer a new approach that could mitigate infections disease and thus negate the need to use antibiotics to treat livestock infection. Use of immunostimulants have already demonstrated clear benefits in reducing bovine respiratory disease (BRD) and experts think this could be used support the phasing out of antibiotics.
“We see clear benefits with novel immunostimulants in BRD therapy,” said Dr Jason Nickell, manager of veterinary services at Bayer, a German pharmaceutical giant.
“They have helped to 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.”
However, the moderator of the roundtable, Professor Peter Silley, University of Bradford, said antibiotics still very much had a place in modern meat farming.
“Antibiotics are necessary in veterinary treatment and concerted efforts that involve all stakeholders are needed to address antibiotic resistance,” he said.
“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.”