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Antimicrobial resistance and poultry health

The link between antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance is an important topic. Animal nutrition company Kemin therefore asked four experts on animal production in the EU about their opinion on this topic. In the first part of this series, we listen to Professor Hafez.

Prof. Hafez is Head of the Institute of Poultry Diseases at the Free University of Berlin and Vice-President of the World Veterinary Poultry Association. He points out that the use of antibiotics in animal production is only partially responsible for the creation of multi- resistance issues in humans. "It is also necessary to consider the misuse of antibiotics by human doctors, who prescribe more antibiotics than really necessary and also the high number of patients who do not complete a full course of antibiotics", he addresses.

Weapon of last resort

Hafez further says that antimicrobials are important and essential tools to control bacterial infectious diseases in animals. This will insure the health of the flock, enhance welfare and reduce economic losses. However antimicrobial therapy should only be considered as the weapon of last resort. Moreover, treatment without accurate diagnosis, critical selection of the product, accurate dosage, adequate duration and monitoring is unacceptable. He adds: "Both legislation and government controls are effective in reducing antibiotic use on farms in Germany. This requires continuous education of veterinarian and farmers. However, it is not possible to simply order a reduction of the use of antibiotics. We must develop further effective alternatives to combat bacterial infections."

Prof. Hafez: "It is important to stop the misuse of antibiotics, as this will reduce the amount of antibiotics currently used and reduce the development of resistance bacteria."

Control of enteric disorders

Prof. Hafez also emphasises that an important aspect of poultry health today is the control of enteric disorders. The normal intestinal microflora mostly protects the host against colonisation by other bacteria (colonsation resistance), although the colonisation resistance seems to decrease after application of antimicrobial drugs. Several pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and parasites are implicated in enteric disorders, either alone (mono-causal) or in synergy with other microorganisms (multi-causal). Enteric disorders can also arise from non-infectious causes due to feed and /or management related factors. Under field conditions however, it is difficult to determine whether the true cause of enteric disorders in poultry is of infectious or non-infectious origin. Since the ban of antimicrobial growth promoters, Clostridium perfringens now plays a major role in enteric disorders in poultry.

Early recognition is key

"An important strategy to prevent enteritis issues without the use of antibiotics is early recognition of the problem. Various approaches can then be implemented such as improved management, good feed formulation and limiting exposure to infectious agents through biosecurity" Hafez explains. The use of alternative products to modulate the intestinal flora such as prebiotics, probiotics, enzymes, immune stimulating products, acids and essential oils will lead to a reduction of the use of antibiotics and subsequently of the development of resistant bacteria. Furthermore, the development and application of efficient vaccines against bacterial infections is also a valuable strategy.

One comment

  • Larry Whetstone

    Prof . Hafez has never considered soluble fibre containing crops like Jerusalem Artichoke for the replacement of antibiotics in swine and poultry feeds when the EU legislation mandates. Topinambur , Cicoka , or other regional names for the plant that has even more available high quality Protein natural Lyzine and amino acids than soy meal. Also is drought resistant abd grows in marginal soils. Larry Whetstone Canuk Sales . Canada

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