Alternatives to antibiotics are broadly defined as any substance that can be substituted for therapeutic drugs that are increasingly becoming ineffective against pathogenic bacteria due to antimicrobial resistance. Although antibiotics remain an essential tool for treating animal diseases on the farm, the availability of effective medical interventions to prevent and control animal diseases is one of the most significant challenges facing veterinary medicine in the 21st century. The call from the global public health community to reduce the use of medically important antibiotics in animals warrants further research to better understand the drivers of antimicrobial resistance in farm animals and develop new tools that can provide antibiotic alternatives. Although the actual mechanisms by which antibiotics enhance feed efficiency and weight gain in animal production remain largely unknown, there is also a need to find alternatives to antibiotics to improve animal health and production efficiency.
The 2nd International Symposium on Alternatives to Antibiotics was held at the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Headquarters in Paris, France, December 12–15, 2016, to discuss recent scientific developments to reduce the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture and to develop antibiotic alternatives to combat the global increase in antibiotic resistance. More than 200 participants from academia, government research institutions, regulatory agencies, and animal industries from 25 different countries came together to discuss promising novel technologies that could provide alternatives to antibiotics for use in animals; assess challenges associated with their commercialization; and devise actionable strategies to facilitate the development of alternatives to antibiotic. The 3-day meeting consisted of scientific sessions focused on four product categories: 1) vaccines; 2) microbial-derived products; 3) phytochemicals; 4) immune-related products, and 5) innovative drugs, chemicals and enzymes. Each session was followed by an expert panel discussion that included industry representatives and scientists that shared their experience and challenges associated with the research and development of antibiotic alternatives. Examples for each product category are reviewed in the following six review articles, which should provide guidance to scientists and research funders interested in investing in promising antibiotic alternatives to combat antimicrobial resistant bacteria in farm animals.
Foreword by Dr Cyril G. Gay