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One Health public forum pushes role of animal health in reducing antibiotic use

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Animal health, Medicine, Bacteria

Boosting animal health, management, nutrition and genetics are factors in reducing the need to use antibiotics in animal production, say industry leaders.

Animal protein industry members highlighted the role of improving animal genetics, management, nutrition and health in the effort to address antimicrobial resistance and judicious use of antibiotics when speaking Thursday at an event hosted by Elanco during the One Health Antibiotic Stewardship Summit.

Event speakers included Knut Nesse, CEO of Nutreco, Luis Bakker, chairman of Pronaca, Chris Policinski, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes, Jeff Simmons, president of Elanco and Carlos Saviani vice president of sustainable food with the World Wildlife Federation.

It is important “to look at social issues not as constraints on business but as business opportunities,”​ said event moderator Mark Krammer.

There is an opportunity for business growth and competitive advantage in coming decades for companies working to address social issues with other groups, like NGOs, non-profits and governmental entities, through cross-sector coalitions, he said.

Additionally, to support efforts going forward it will be important for producers with more efficient practices and better technology to share that information with others around the world, said Saviani.

“If you want to move the needle, if you want to change the situation of the 1.6 planets moving forward, we’re going to have to take all the technology, all the efficiencies that a few producers around the world got to a larger number of producers,”​ he said.

Antibiotic replacement

The summit has produced a series of steps that need to be addressed to protect antibiotics – steps to be taken include developing global standards of responsible antibiotic use, supporting the elimination of shared-use antibiotics for growth promotion globally, improving animal welfare to reduce the need for antimicrobial use, supporting veterinary training in developing countries and improving antibiotic resistance monitoring and reporting, said Simmons.  

However, addressing antibiotic resistance does not just mean looking at the use of antibiotics, said Nesse. It also means improving animal health and management so the herds or flocks being produced are healthier.

“It’s about feed additives and functional ingredients, and what that can do to strengthen the immune system of the animals,”​ he said.

The industry should be a part of the solution if animal producers are expected to meet the needs of an increased global population, he said. “We have to do that with less resources, [and] it also involves using less antibiotics.”

“There is a need for an integrated approach, it’s about farm, feed and health management coming together and that’s also preventative health,” ​Nesse said. “We believe genetics, more effective vaccines, nutrition, preventative health to strengthen the immune system will lead to more robust animals meaning that there will need less treatment in the future.”

There have already been examples of how that process works, he said. Like the efforts made regarding salmon production in Norway that replaced overreliance on antibiotics with better feed, new farming practices and improved vaccines.

The industry also can help promote a reduction in antibiotics if it takes steps like offering funding for alternative products, establishing a regulatory framework that supports use of alternatives and setting ambitious targets for a use reduction, he said.

When it comes to addressing disease challenges, it may more important to be able to prevent the outbreak than treat the disease, said Nesse. “The fundamental idea is to provide optimal nutrition to the animal, to strengthen the immune system, the gut health and the aim and the purpose is to avoid animals getting sick – we can be pretty united about that one,”​ he added.  

Animal health role

When addressing “one health,”​ animal health has to be included, said Simmons.  “It’s very simple this concept, the need to put the animal at the table and animal health at the table with human health and environmental health, we think that they’re inseparable and we need to make sure that we do a better job,”​ he added.

However, when looking at animal health, limiting antibiotic use in only a part of a larger conversation, he said. “Antimicrobial resistance is an example, but it’s much bigger, there will be another issue tomorrow,”​ he added.

When looking at ways to provide animal protein for the expected growth in population, the 20% of production animals currently lost to morbidity and mortality need to be addressed, he said. More efforts need to be made on efficiency on a global scale to meet those expected needs, rather than by only adding more animal production.

“The opportunity for efficiency, and the reality of health challenges for the animal are there, they’re real,” ​said Simmons. “It’s the biggest food waste story never told.”

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