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Alternatives to antibiotics as growth promoters in pigs

Abstract: AGP’s have been a sensitive issue for some time and there has been a developing controversy surrounding the use of antibiotics as growth promoters for food animals. A review by Philip A Thacker tackles this subject.

In the past two decades, an intensive amount of research has been focused on the development of alternatives to antibiotics to maintain swine health and performance. The most widely researched alternatives include probiotics, prebiotics, acidifiers, plant extracts and neutraceuticals such as copper and zinc. Since these additives have been more than adequately covered in previous reviews, the focus of this review will be on less traditional alternatives.

The potential of antimicrobial peptides, clay minerals, egg yolk antibodies, essential oils, eucalyptus oil-medium chain fatty acids, rare earth elements and recombinant enzymes are discussed. Based on a thorough review of the literature, it is evident that a long and growing list of compounds exist which have been tested for their ability to replace antibiotics as feed additives in diets fed to swine. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these compounds produce inconsistent results and rarely equal antibiotics in their effectiveness. Therefore, it would appear that research is still needed in this area and that the perfect alternative to antibiotics does not yet exist.

Antibiotics have played a major role in the growth and development of the swine industry for more than 50 years. Their efficiency in increasing growth rate, improving feed utilization and reducing mortality from clinical disease is well documented [1]. However, consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about drug residues in meat products [2]. In addition, it has been suggested that the continuous use of antibiotics may contribute to a reservoir of drug-resistant bacteria which may be capable of transferring their resistance to pathogenic bacteria in both animals and humans [3]. As a result, many countries have banned or are banning the inclusion of antibiotics in swine diets as a routine means of growth promotion.

This article has been published online and can be fully viewed on the Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology website.

Alternatives to antibiotics as growth promoters for use in swine production: a review, Philip A Thacker, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology 2013, 4:35

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  1. Van der Fels-Klerx HJ, Puister-Jansen LF, Van Asselt ED, Burgers SL: Farm factors associated with the use of antibiotics in pig production. J Anim Sci 2011, 89:1922-1929.

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