Which products can help cut the dependency on antibiotic use in swine production?

Which products can help cut the dependency on antibiotic use in swine production? Research

Which bioactive ingredients can help in the battle against antibiotic resistance? This has been the subject of research led by a team of scientists at the University of South Wales (USW).

The findings have been published in an article in The Journal of Applied Microbiology, jointly written by USW biology lecturer Dr Cerith Jones, microbiology PhD student Charlotte Neath, and Dr Naheeda Portocarero, of Hay-on-Wye-based Feed, Food & Future, with which USW worked in partnership on the research.

Taking into account the challenge of increasing antibiotic resistance, the development of non-antibiotic alternatives and confusion among nutritionists and farmers as to which additives are most effective, the researchers compared the antimicrobial activity of a wide range of non-antibiotic additives and active ingredients.

More than 30 compounds were compared for their ability to act against a diverse group of pig pathogens. The researchers were able to identify those which showed the most promising bioactivity against specific disease-causing bacteria. The research identified additives that could focus on a specific set of pathogens, and others that could that have a broad impact on a wider range of bacteria.

As a result, a solid base of evidence was built to advise users on which products to use to help cut the dependency on antibiotic use in swine production.

Dr Jones said: “The antibiotic crisis is one of the most pressing current threats to global health. Since the health of humans, animals and the environment are closely linked, this study helps to make important advances towards the overall reduction in antibiotic use, slowing the development of resistant organisms. Cutting the use of antibiotics in the food chain is one way to address part of the problem, with many feed products available that claim to give similar results to antibiotic treatments – but without evidence to back that up.”

Charlotte Neath, the PhD student who conducted the research, said: “Our research was all about getting evidence to drive reduction in antibiotic use by guiding the industry to choose alternatives based on a credible, science-based approach, so that pig producers have more confidence in the likely impact of the products when making that choice. We found that some products will work, some not as expected, and others have a narrow spectrum of activity against certain bacteria that could be developed further.”

Dr Naheeda Portocarero of Feed, Food & Future, who works closely with animal producers and the feed industry, said: “The team at USW have taken a analytical approach to tackling antimicrobial resistance, applying their expertise with a range of laboratory techniques. The outcome is an impressive evidence base to guide the industry on which active ingredients may provide the basis for a further reduction of antibiotic use. 

"Crucially, the research also shows us which ingredients have little or no antimicrobial activity, so that the industry can really focus on those which are going to have a measurable impact. And by combining microbiology and animal studies, we are additionally developing a good understanding of antimicrobial resistance mechanisms in pig farming.

“The benefits for animal health, and in turn human health, of this research are clear to see as we aim to reduce the burden of antibiotic resistance. Use of bioactive feed supplements could improve the health of animals, and reduce the requirement for antibiotic interventions, especially with those supplements and active ingredients we have shown to be effective in the lab. Ultimately the use of antibiotics in the food chain could be substantially reduced.” 

Charlotte Neath is a KESS student whose project has been funded by the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS2), which operates in collaboration with an industry partner, in this case Feed, Food & Future, and a Welsh University. KESS2 is supported by European Social Funds (ESF) through the Welsh Government.