The EU banned growth-promoting antibiotics in 2006, and livestock producers need alternative ways of obtaining similar production benefits to maintain profitability and competitiveness against overseas producers. Improving the health and safety of animal products reaching the consumer, including those resulting from organic farming, is also important.
REPLACE is examining plants, plant extracts and other natural materials as safe alternatives to feed antimicrobials. The materials will be derived from 500 samples of plant materials collected as possible feed additives for ruminants [FP5 project, Rumen-up, QLK5-CT-2001-00992], plus some additional natural materials likely to be useful in non-ruminants. Rumen-up samples, for which a large data set of background information and screening success now exists, will be tested for properties not screened in FP5: their possible impact on human and animal health (E. coli, parasites), food quality (fatty acids) and efficient use of natural resources (increased forage use by ruminants). Researchers on pigs, poultry and fish, where the impact of antibiotic withdrawal is greatest, will join the consortium. The priorities in these species overlap with ruminants, although the precise aims and pathogen species are different. After identifying the most promising candidates for each target, a small number of samples will be taken to animal trials. The project will link fragmented research carried out with different animal species across Europe and provide a platform, via consultation with industry, farmers' and consumers' organisations, veterinarians, botanists, agronomists and economists, for the rational production of a new generation of natural feed additives.
Growth-promoting antibiotics were banned in the EU in 2006. The main fear was that antibiotic resistance would arise from the use of antibiotics in animals, and in turn possibly transmit this resistance to human pathogens.Livestock producers need alternative means of obtaining similar production benefits to maintain profitability and competitiveness against overseas producers, including the US, where such restrictions do not exist. The EU will be among the first to carry out such a measure, with no guarantee that other countries will follow and so will place added pressure on EU competitiveness. Anthelmintics are also becoming increasingly problematic in preventing parasitic infections, and safe alternatives are needed. Aquaculture is a growing sector within the EU and antimicrobials are common in combating the problems associated with intensification. Finding a growth promoter of natural origin will have benefits for environmental safety and awareness as well as the meeting the demand for a healthier food chain. Ways must also be found to improve the healthiness and safety of animal products reaching the consumer, including those from organic farming.
The overall aim of the project is to derive safe alternatives to antimicrobials, based on plant extracts and other natural materials. The new additives will maintain the health status and production benefits of the growth-promoting antibiotics, using safe products in animal agriculture and aquaculture. The targets include human health benefits, human and animal nutritional benefits and environmental benefits. The principle research areas are:
The expected outcome will be a catalogue of plant extracts which can be used as potential replacements to antibiotics in the animal feed industry. The major deliverables of the project are to find natural materials that suppress E.coli, Salmonella and C.perfringens infections, suppress parasites and their egg production in ruminants. A management programme structured around a natural material to alleviate weaning problems in pigs, and a natural material that modifies fatty acid breakdown in ruminants and so increases the CLA content and the healthiness of ruminant products.
The knowledge gained from this project will provide safe alternatives to previous feed additives. Hopefully, the knowledge generated will allow the project results to achieve market penetration for the new or modified products. The knowledge could have two applications; the manufacturers of feed additives or feedstuffs and those directly involved in livestock production. The final disseminated knowledge will allow other researchers to further explore the potential value of the plant material.
Eight animal trials have been commissioned within the consortium to explore the commercial potential of a number of promising samples. It is expected that three will be taken forward for patent protection. For confidentiality reasons, the plants and their applications cannot be revealed at this time.