ANSES assesses the efficacy and safety of alternatives to antibiotics in animal husbandry and considers the need for a specific status for these products
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News of 27/04/2018
Today, the Agency is publishing an inventory of alternatives to antibiotics aimed at reducing their use in animal husbandry and based on an original method for evaluating the diverse scientific publications in the field. In its report, ANSES identifies numerous products and substances including compounds, plants, plant extracts and micro-organisms, which are used as alternatives to antibiotics. However, it emphasises the diversity of the data available to assess their safety and efficacy, and their ability to select resistant bacteria. ANSES also stresses the need to reflect on which classes of alternatives intended for use in the main animal production sectors should get first priority for in-depth research to remove uncertainties about their efficacy and safety. In addition, the Agency recommends raising the issue of the legal status of these products at the European level as part of the plan to tackle antibiotic resistance, in order to investigate the relevance and feasibility of creating a specific status for products contributing to a reduction in the use of antibiotics, without considering them as veterinary medicinal products.
The “Ecoantibio 1” five year action plan, published in 2012, aimed to “develop alternatives to the use of antibiotics” and to assess the benefits of alternative treatments to this end. In 2014, ANSES published a report on antibiotic resistance, which assessed unsafe practices in the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine. This expert appraisal addressed the issue of alternatives to antibiotics but without going into detail about specific products.
In 2013, ANSES also issued an opinion on the use of zinc oxide in the diet of piglets at weaning to reduce the use of antibiotics. This was the first alternative assessment under the Ecoantibio Plan, in which a chapter dedicated to “alternatives” indicated which product families were being studied at the time, based on the latest publications. Following this initial opinion, the Agency was asked to produce an inventory of the products and substances currently used as alternatives to antibiotics with a view to reducing their use, and to assess the efficacy and safety of such substances for humans (both as consumers and handlers), animals and the environment, based on a review of the available literature..
The Agency's findings and recommendations
In the report it is publishing today, ANSES presents the results of the work undertaken to identify all substances and commercial preparations claiming directly or indirectly to be a solution for limiting the use of antibiotics in various animal production sectors such as ruminants, poultry, swine, rabbits and fish.
The commercial preparations cited most frequently contained mainly plants, essential oils, probiotic substances, and organic and/or fatty acids. The efficacy and safety of these products were assessed on the basis of the available scientific literature. In order to do this, the Agency developed a method for evaluating scientific publications on measuring the effectiveness of substances in reducing the use of antibiotics.
The Agency found that many products and substances including compounds, plants, plant extracts and micro-organisms were used as alternatives to antibiotics and highlighted the diversity and variability of the available literature base, which is a limitation when assessing the safety and efficacy of many of these alternatives as well as their ability to select resistant bacteria. However, the methodology developed in the opinion may be used at a later date by trade associations to assess new scientific data or unpublished research outcomes.
ANSES emphasises the need to reflect on which classes of alternatives intended for use in the main animal production sectors should be given first priority for in-depth research to remove uncertainties about their efficacy and safety, using appropriate methods.
Currently available data suggest that the various product families appear to have a more limited effect than antibiotics. This constitutes a major challenge for experimental research, which needs to adapt its protocols for demonstrating “low intensity effects”. The Agency emphasises the importance of this need for methodological research in order to establish solid scientific grounds for such demonstrations.
Furthermore, the Agency draws attention to the importance of determining the legal status of these products before conducting further research and experiments, since the status will help define research needs and the conditions for undertaking such research prior to marketing and using a product. ANSES recommends raising the issue of the legal status of these products at the European level as part of the plan to tackle antibiotic resistance, in order to investigate the relevance and feasibility of creating a specific status for products contributing to a reduction in the use of antibiotics, without considering them as veterinary medicinal products.