How Prevention Reduces the Need for Antibiotics
Antibiotics are a cornerstone of animal and public health. These medicines remain the only way to treat a bacterial infection – there is no alternative. While many countries have successfully reduced the need for antibiotics in animals, leading to global declines in use, more progress is needed in some regions. This review of studies and data across the world shows:
- Bacterial disease remains a major threat: Many regions still face high levels of disease prevalence. This causes pain and suffering for animals, while hurting farmer livelihoods.
- Prevention is a proven pathway: Numerous studies have shown that innovations in areas like vaccination, biosecurity, nutrition, diagnostics, genetic testing, and more are a proven way to prevent disease and reduce the need for antibiotics.
- More focus and capacity are needed: While many nations have increased prevention, leading to less need for antibiotic use, not all farms currently have the capacity to do so. More work is needed to bridge existing gaps in veterinary expertise, medicine access, and financial constraints to support higher levels of prevention.
Using these lessons can accelerate global efforts to tackle antimicrobial resistance, increase adoption of prevention tools, and reduce the need for antibiotics in animals.
Antibiotics are needed where bacterial disease is prevalent
Many regions still face high levels of bacterial infection
- Brucellosis: As high as 40%
- Leptospirosis: As high as 24%
- Q Fever: As high as 28.2%
Bacterial disease leads to animal suffering and harms vulnerable farmers
Some of the neglected livestock diseases in Africa and South Asia are bacterial and require antibiotic treatment.
Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) is endemic in Africa and can cause losses from 20% to up to 80%. It affects 27 countries in Africa at an estimated annual cost of US $2 billion.3https://www.galvmed.org/livestock-and-diseases/livestock-diseases/contagious-bovine-pleuropneumonia/
Contagious Caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP) can be found in many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Mortality rates can reach 80–100% in some cases with the total yearly cost of the disease estimated to be US $507 million.4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6830973)
Animal health tools reduce the need for antibiotics
Improving animal health can help prevent bacterial disease in livestock, thus reducing the need for antimicrobial treatments.
Overall health is the foundation of disease prevention
Reducing the need for antibiotics requires a range of animal health tools, from vaccination to genetics to nutrition. Each can make a positive contribution, but when combined, they can provide outsized results.
Vaccines are one of the most effective tools in reducing antibiotic need
Biosecurity keeps bacterial disease off the farm and away from animals
Biosecurity means implementing practices to keep bacteria off the farm altogether. This can range from simple measures like boot washing stations to high-tech filtration systems.
Genetic testing helps farmers breed animals with stronger natural immunity
Tracking the health characteristics of a herd through genetics and breeding animals that show a stronger innate defense against bacterial disease has been proven to reduce the need for antibiotics.
A 2022 study of dairy cows found that:14https://news.zoetis.com/press-releases/press-release-details/2022/New-study-shows-genetically-superior-cows-can-be-more-sustainable-and-productive/default.asp
Nutrition supplements improve animals innate defense against disease
Products like probiotics, essential oils and nutraceuticals are an emerging class of products that can strengthen livestock gut health and natural immune system, which allows them to better fend off disease without needing antibiotics.
Studies have found products like essential oils and probiotics can support:
- Better immune response
- Healthier intestinal microflora
- Reduced stress in the gut
All of which help an animal avoid bacterial illness.15https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4359495/,16https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35073660/
Digital & diagnostics tools reduce the spread of disease through early detection
Bacterial disease cannot always be prevented, and some animals will fall ill. If a disease is detected early stages, it can be treated before it spreads throughout herds and flocks. This means antibiotics can be targeted at a smaller group of animals, reducing overall need.
20% of calf mortality is a result of Bovine Respiratory Disease. It is the leading reason for antimicrobial use in dairy cattle.
Digital monitoring technologies can identify 70% of sick animals days before they even show symptoms, allowing for early, targeted treatment.
“By tailoring the treatment to the nature of the infectious pathogen and its resistance pattern, diagnostics help reduce the unnecessary use of antimicrobials in humans and animals.”
European One Health Action Plan on AMR17https://health.ec.europa.eu/system/files/2020-01/amr_2017_action-plan_0.pdf
Looking Ahead: How to Maximize Prevention
Optimizing antibiotic use means maximizing prevention to avoid bacterial illness and reduce the need for treatments.
Increasing vaccine use is a proven method
Global sales of animal health products show that as vaccine sales have increased in recent years, antimicrobial sales have declined in a near-mirror image. Increasing adoption of vaccines to reduce bacterial disease pressure is a proven way to reduce the need for antibiotics.
Livestock Vaccine vs Antibiotic Sales, Percent Change (2015 Euros)18Data provided by CEESA. Their International Sales Survey covers sales from the 9 largest global animal health manufacturers (all HealthforAnimals Members) and local/regional manufacturers in Italy, Spain, the UK and Latin America.
Greater capacity for prevention needed in animal health
Animal disease prevention is the primary way to reduce the need for antibiotics and ensure that risk of AMR transfer remains low. This is particularly important in emerging markets where production will grow in the coming decades. However, veterinary capacity and investment in animal health remains low in these markets compared to developed regions. For instance, there are five to six times as many veterinary professionals per livestock animal in Europe compared to Africa.
Ratio of veterinary professionals per livestock animal in Europe versus Africa19WOAH data states the ratio of veterinary professionals per livestock unit is 3530:1 in Africa and 612:1 in Europe. Source: WOAH 2022 Observatory Annual Report
Greater focus on prevention and optimized use is needed
Countries across the world are reducing the need for antibiotics in animals as part of their efforts to manage antimicrobial resistance. Achieving this in a manner that respects animal welfare requires addressing disease levels, not simply use. This means maximizing prevention and focusing on optimizing the use of antibiotics. These medicines will always be necessary for addressing bacterial disease; however, we can reduce the threat of these illnesses in the first place.
Objectives of the World Health Organization’s Global Action Plan on AMR 20https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241509763
- 18Data provided by CEESA. Their International Sales Survey covers sales from the 9 largest global animal health manufacturers (all HealthforAnimals Members) and local/regional manufacturers in Italy, Spain, the UK and Latin America.
- 19WOAH data states the ratio of veterinary professionals per livestock unit is 3530:1 in Africa and 612:1 in Europe. Source: WOAH 2022 Observatory Annual Report