Sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics are added to animal feed to treat and prevent infections and to improve growth and production. Intensive animal breeding for food production has led to a substantial increase in the use of antibiotics in the recent decades. Exposing bacteria to low doses of antimicrobial agents over a long period of time lead to selection of antimicrobial resistant genes in bacteria. This overuse of sub-therapeutic antibiotics in animal feeds can contribute to antibiotic resistance development in bacteria creating health dangers to human. It has been shown that the antibiotic avoparcin, when removed from animal feeds in Sweden, resulted in a significant reduction in vancomycin resistance in human clinical isolates.
The European Union has banned all in-feed use of antibiotics from 2006 and the use of antibiotics in feed is being considered for elimination (or intense regulation) in other parts of the world. Moreover consumer requests for antibiotic free meat products are increasing and countries exporting meat to the European Union are required to follow suit. It is also clear that the complete withdrawal of feed antibiotics has a detrimental effect on production and animal health to the extent that more antibiotics may ultimately be subscribed for therapeutics purposes to control disease conditions. The removal of antibiotics from animal feed will also lead to an increase in the proportions of harmful microbes like E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter in the gut microflora of farm animals challenging human food safety. Therefore alternatives to sub-therapeutic antibiotics are urgently needed, but to make this transition, a better understanding and a more fundamental knowledge about the role of microorganism in gut function is required.
This report will outline how the native intestinal microbial population can be harnessed to improve animal health and performance. Moreover the recent findings in the search for alternatives to in- feed antibiotics that hold potential to successfully manipulate this ecosystem will be discussed.
How to Cite:
Fernando, W.U., 2012. Alternatives to In-Feed Antibiotics in Animal Feed: A Healthy Gut Microbiota Approach. Journal of Food and Agriculture, 2(1), pp.30–37. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/jfa.v2i1.3940