Alternatives to antibiotics reduce animal disease
CSIRO is developing vaccines and other alternatives to in-feed antibiotics for livestock. These will improve animal health and reduce the risk of drug-resistant bacteria.
9 January 2006 | Updated 14 October 2011
Livestock producers may have safe alternatives to using in-feed antibiotics within years. This would boost the health, productivity and welfare of livestock.
Antibiotics: the issue
Antibiotics have been used for decades in human and animal medicine. They treat and prevent infectious bacterial diseases. Their misuse and overuse is well recognised. As a consequence of this, drug-resistant strains of bacteria are emerging.
Antibiotics are added to animal feed when raising animals, such as pigs and poultry, to control bacterial and parasitic infections and improve the animal’s feed-conversion efficiency. However, some countries have restricted the use of in-feed antibiotics in food production animals because of concern about:
Developing a safe alternative
CSIRO is investigating a range of treatments to replace, or reduce the reliance on, in-feed antibiotics.
Our research uses molecules called cytokines as treatments. Cytokines are proteins naturally produced by the body’s immune system following infection by bacteria or viruses.
Treatment with cytokines enhances protection against disease. It also reduces harmful responses to disease, such as inflammation. Some cytokines promote growth in livestock and improve the effectiveness of vaccination.
In trials, treating chickens with one particular cytokine, gamma interferon, led to:
CSIRO’s chicken gamma interferon and delivery technology has been licensed to Imugene Ltd for commercial development.
Researchers predict that cytokine therapy may also produce beneficial results in cattle and pigs.
CSIRO is working on a range of vaccines against animal diseases as another alternative to antibiotics. For example, bovine respiratory disease, also known as shipping fever, costs cattle producers about A$50 million each year in lost production.
CSIRO and the Cooperative Research Centre for Cattle and Beef Industry (CRCCBI) started work on a shipping fever vaccine in 1993. The vaccine performed well in field trials and was registered by Intervet Australia in 2004.
Read more about CSIRO’s research into Farming & Food.