great example of using management to reduce the need to medicate.
The biggest remaining challenge for the industry is respiratory disease: Airsacculitis is mostly due to infectious bronchitis variants, and unlike for coccidiosis, extending downtime is not sufficient to control respiratory disease. The vaccine tools to
control respiratory disease are not always available, particularly as they relate to bacteria entering the food supply. The presence of airsacculitis in broiler chickens has
been shown to contribute to fecal contamination, processing errors, and increases in
populations of pathogenic and indicator bacteria, among other things.
In one study, flocks of chickens showing signs of airsacculitis had lower weights,
more fecal contamination, more processing errors, and higher levels of Campylobacter,
indicating that control of airsacculitis is a means of preventing foodborne bacterial
infection.1 In fact, campylobacteriosis is a common cause of acute bacterial enteritis
worldwide, and studies show that the handling and consumption of poultry meat account for approximately one-third of cases of campylobacteriosis in humans. 2
Beyond animal welfare, healthy animals contribute to safer food. To ensure food
safety in poultry production that employs responsible use of antibiotics, strong biosecurity, including longer downtimes and better sanitation, is necessary and supports
animal welfare as well—a win/win situation. n
The roundtable was convened by Bassam A. Annous, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service Eastern Regional Research Center and the content summarized by Rodrigo Santibanez, D.V.M., Ph.D., Merck Animal Health. Panelists included
Brian Lubbers, D.V.M., Ph.D., Kansas State University; Linnea Newman, D.V.M., Merck
Animal Health; Don Ritter, D.V.M., Mountaire Farms; and Birthe Steenberg, Association of
Poultry Processors and Poultry Trade in the EU.
1. Russell, SM. 2003. Poult Sci 82( 8):1326–1331.
2. European Food Safety Authority. 2010. EFSA J 8:1437.
cephalosporins is banned; and there is
restricted use of antibiotics classified as
highest priority, critically important by
the World Health Organization.
Furthermore, new EU regulations are
on the way and by 2022 are expected to
limit the use of antibiotics in animals
that are not yet sick but may run the risk
of falling ill, both in the case of prophylaxis and metaphylaxis. In addition, certain critical antibiotics will be set aside
for the treatment of certain infections in
humans to protect their effectiveness.
Challenges for the Industry
From a producer perspective, the first
problem faced when removing antibiotics from the hatchery is chick mortality.
Since Escherichia coli can penetrate the
eggshell, when antibiotics are removed
from the hatchery, a 1– 2 percent increase in chick mortality can be expected on top of the typical 1 percent, 7-day
The next problem to solve is coccidiosis control, as it impacts feed conversion. Any factor that reduces the feed
intake, growth, or health of the broiler
will worsen the feed-conversion ratio.
Preventing and controlling coccidiosis,
a parasitic infection that damages the
gut wall of chickens, is a critical concern
for poultry producers. Mild forms of
coccidiosis result in diarrhea, and severe
forms result in concurrent infections
with necrotic enteritis and disease progression, leading to death. Coccidiosis
requires prevention and monitoring,
and without sufficient downtime for disinfection, pathogens could be transmitted between flocks. A good biosecurity
program, essential for maintaining bird
health as well as performance, should
ensure that adequate production line
downtime is given to reduce pathogen
In one example in a hatchery with an
antibiotic use of less than 5 percent, 7
days of extra downtime cost $2.8 million. However, that increased downtime
had significant benefit for coccidiosis
control, improving the feed-conversion
ratio by $4.3 million. That’s an impressive improvement from downtime and a
IAFP 2019 Roundtable: Antibiotic Reduction,
Alternatives, and the Relationship to Food
In continuation of the topics discussed at the 2018 roundtable, Merck Animal Health
will host “Antibiotic Reduction, Alternatives, and the Relationship to Food Pathogen Outbreaks” in Louisville, Kentucky, on July 24 from 1: 30 to 3: 30 p.m.
Current and new marketplace food trends and consumer demands related to anti-biotic-free and antibiotic reduction are changing the way animals are raised for food
production. Food industry stakeholders (producers, retailers, foodservice, etc.) are taking
steps to address antimicrobial stewardship and identify alternatives to antibiotics. The
sudden reduction and/or elimination of antibiotics, without considering alternatives, can
be reflected in increased animal disease that can be translated into a higher potential for
a food pathogen outbreak. Some companies have taken steps and learned valuable lessons in antibiotic reduction that are worth sharing with the large audience at IAFP.
Experts at this symposium will discuss:
• How Antibiotic Alternatives Could Address Food Safety Concerns in Preharvest Stages
• Areas of Concern When Reducing and/or Eliminating the Use of Antibiotics
• Best Alternatives to Mitigate Issues That Antibiotic Reduction Could Heighten (Global
• Food Safety Concerns Due to Antibiotic Reduction — How Have Countries That Have
Pioneered in This Area Such as United Kingdom Addressed These Issues?