Pew in call to arms to research community

Move on to identify ways to limit use of antibiotics in feed

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/grThirteen
© iStock/grThirteen

Related tags Antibiotic Scientific method Medicine

Pew Charitable Trusts needs support to improve the understanding of methods to reduce the use of antibiotics in animal production, says senior officer.

The organization is seeking research proposals aimed at identifying or addressing gaps in the information available regarding practices​ that could limit use of antibiotics in feed or with food-producing animals.

Pew is also looking for researchers to analyze the use of antibiotics to prevent​ disease in food-producing animals.  

The two requests for research proposals were launched at the same time for logistical reasons, but they are separate projects, said Karin Hoelzer, senior officer with the Pew Charitable Trusts. “We are hoping this will be generating helpful information for stakeholders by at least looking at what is out there and hopefully [providing] a stepping stone for future research,” ​she added.

“We think both are important questions related to antibiotic stewardship in animal agriculture,” ​she told FeedNavigator. “We hope that we can move the base forward to provide additional information that will be helpful to veterinarians, producers and stakeholders."

Both projects are aimed at understanding how much data and information is available, she said

“The eventual goal will be a peer-reviewed publication [that covers] what the scientific evidence in these two areas is, what the data gaps are and if there are strategies for closing some of the data gaps.”

Addressing antibiotic resistance continues to be a topic of interest for the organization because it is a “global threat”​ on public health, said Hoelzer. “It’s important to protect the health of humans and animals and it means that antibiotics have to be used judiciously,”​ she added.

Research focus areas

The first area of interest covers the potential for feed and management practices to address the need for antibiotic use, said Hoelzer.

“There’s been a lot of interest in finding ways to reduce the use of antibiotics – we know that management practices are important for that, but we’ve not seen a lot of (work) on animal health,” ​she said. “We’re trying to incentivize researchers to take a look at the literature – how they relate to animal health, and antibiotic use and where are the data gaps? And are there strategies to close them?”

The organization has previously examined the use of alternative products that could replace antibiotics in animal production, she said. The new project is intended to focus more on steps to tackle the issues addressed with an antibiotic or antibiotic alternative.

“Antibiotic alternative products – we think they are important strategies for reducing [use of] antibiotic products,” ​she said. “However, this will focus on management practices, things like nutrition and housing that also can play an important [role] in the health of the animals. We’ve seen a little less research on that – at least that’s our hypothesis.”

One goal of the project is to see how much research has been done into alternative nutritional or management practices, said Hoelzer.

Responses to the series of questions should include different factors like the development of a reproducible literature search and evaluation of information collected, a look at if the evidence gathered is sufficient to make scientifically-based determinations on the topic and the potential design of studies to fill some of the data gaps, the organization said.

The second area of interest looks at the role of antibiotics in preventing disease, said Hoelzer.

A call for proposals on the questions has been sent, she said. However, those interested can contact the organization for more information as the submission period runs for the next 60 days.

Projects selected are expected to be announced in February of 2018 and researchers will have about six months to complete the analysis, said Pew. 

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