Reduced sensitivity to some antibiotics, plus the concern that feeding these drugs to poultry and livestock may increase the risk for antibiotic-resistant infections in people, is initiating significant changes in the poultry industry.
For many years, antibiotic growth promoters have had the inadvertent benefit of controlling a variety of diseases in poultry. With prolonged use, however, antibiotic resistance has developed, minimizing their effectiveness.
Ionophore anticoccidials, a type of antibiotic used for managing coccidiosis, have also become less effective after continuous use.
Though controversial, there is also concern that antibiotic-resistant infections in poultry and livestock could transfer to people, which has already prompted European regulators to ban the use of several in-feed antibiotics in food animals.
A similar movement is under way in the United States, where it has largely been instigated by consumers and is evidenced by the soaring growth of organic poultry sales.
In addition, U.S. legislators have proposed The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, which would prohibit the use of several non-therapeutic antibiotics in food animals.
These trends are prompting an increasing number of poultry producers to search for alternative methods of disease control, such as vaccination, better quality nutrition and other management changes. In fact, studies have shown that substituting coccidiosis vaccination for antibiotic therapy can actually restore sensitivity of coccidial organisms to in-feed anticoccidials that have lost effectiveness.