Antibiotics: Replace, Rethink & Reduce, says the EU -Probiotics Can Be a Real Replacement Here

The Costs of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

Antibiotic resistant pathogenic bacteria (Superbugs), currently responsible for 700,000 deaths a year, could kill more people than cancer by 2050 at a cost of £63 trillion to the global economy according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – the ability of micro-organisms to resist antimicrobial treatments, especially antibiotics – has a direct impact on human and animal health and carries a heavy economic burden due to higher costs of treatments and reduced productivity caused by sickness. AMR is responsible for an estimated 33,000 deaths per year in the EU. It is also estimated that AMR costs the EU €1.5 billion per year in healthcare costs and productivity losses.

According to WHO projections, the number of cases of resistance is expected to double in more than ten years. By 2050, the number of cases will be four times more than today. The ‘post-antibiotic’ era is near, according to reports released by the WHO. The decreasing effectiveness of antibiotics and other antimicrobial agents is a global problem if bacteria become fully resistant to antibiotics.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) expects a 45% rise in the demand for animal proteins by 2050 and the world must face the double challenge of meeting demands for animal proteins while reducing the risks of AMR.

“Replace, Reduce and Rethink” has become the mantra of all international Health Authorities as regards curbing antibiotic usage, and all European countries now focus on the “One Health” initiative which underlines the mutual interdependence of animal and human health in this regard.

Tackling AMR in Calves

The Role of Probiotics in Promoting Animal Health and in Reducing the Need for Antibiotics

Prevention is better than cure, and a healthy gut microbiome and a healthy immune system will reduce the risk of infectious disease and therefore curb the reliance on antibiotics. Antibiotics can be regarded as having a subtractive gut effect, insofar as they strip not only pathogens but also useful immuno-stimulant commensals from the gut. AMR is also a huge risk with oral antibiotic usage.

Much American research on rearing pre-weaning calves has shown that early antibiotic usage actually lowers the animal’s immunity, and that calves treated with antibiotics pre-weaning have lowered milk production and reduced productivity as adults. Probiotics on the other hand, have an additive effect on the gut, by seeding beneficial organisms which competitively exclude pathogens from establishment, and also by stimulating the body’s immune system.  Thus probiotics (proven and approved by Regulatory Agencies), can be a very viable replacement for antibiotics in calves, when given from birth onwards on a prophylactic basis.

Role of Protect in Replacing Antibiotics

Improved liveweight gains at weaning, and a spectacular reduction in the incidence of calf scour has been repeatedly reported for Protect. These effects were originally demonstrated in the early clinical field trials with the product on E.coli farms when the Protect dossier for marketing authorisation was being prepared. Provita Protect is the only authorised and proven probiotic for calves on the UK and European market. It has been authorised for use in E coli calf scour by the VMD and HPRA as a result of its evidence-based field trials and its proven efficacy against E coli scour in calves. In this regard, it is a one-off probiotic. One of the important protective effects of the probiotics in the intestinal mucosa is to strengthen the epithelial tight junctions and to improve the mucosal barrier function of the gut. Probiotics not only enhance barrier function by inducing synthesis and assembly of tight junction proteins, but also prevent disruption of tight junctions by external injurious factors, bacteria, and pathogens. Thus, entry of pathogenic micro-organisms is inhibited, infection is lessened and therefore the use of antibiotics is more infrequent.

Field Trial Results with Provita Protect

Better gut health, better respiratory health, better immunity, and heavier weights at weaning are direct benefits of Provita Protect usage. In addition, the probiotic reduces the need for prophylactic antibiotics and by reducing subsequent gut and respiratory disease outbreaks, it lessens the need for therapeutic antibiotic intervention.

Provita Protect has been shown to be just as effective as antibiotics in promoting animal health in calves. In addition, Provita Protect provides for a microbiologically healthier gut which will protect against pathogen invasion while at the same time enhancing nutrient absorption and metabolism. This translates into better weight gains, and this has been a constant feature of Provita Protect use in calves, where the treated calved consistently showed higher weight gains (>10% over controls) at weaning. By virtue of its enhancement of gut-based immunity and the general immune-stimulation arising there from, Protect also reduces the incidence of pneumonia in calves. In field trials, calves treated with Protect showed not only a 78% reduction in scour incidence but also a 70% reduction in pneumonia incidence (Ref 1). Body weights at weaning, in Protect treated calves were significantly improved by up to 10% over the untreated controls.

Thus, Provita Protect, when administered on a prophylactic basis, will not only reduce antibiotic usage (and hence reduce the spread of AMR), but additionally it will contribute to significant financial benefits and productivity returns to the end user.