Animal health firms on track in reducing antibiotics, report says

Vaccines released recently offer protection against disease across livestock, including cattle, sheep and poultry
Vaccines released recently offer protection against disease across livestock, including cattle, sheep and poultry

Animal health firms have developed 49 new vaccines in the past two years as part of an industry-wide strategy to help reduce the need for antibiotics, the latest progress report shows.

Developing 100 new vaccines by 2025 was one of 25 commitments made by the world’s largest animal health companies in a Roadmap to Reducing the Need for Antibiotics, published in 2019.

According to the new progress report released this week, the sector is on track or ahead of schedule across all of its commitments.

They included investing $10 billion in research and development and training more than 100,000 veterinarians in responsible antibiotic use.

The firms are now considering how to expand and add to these targets in the years ahead to accelerate progress in reducing the burden on antibiotics, the report said.

“The Roadmap is unique across the health industries for setting measurable targets and regular status updates on our efforts to address antibiotic resistance,” said Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, executive director of industry association HealthforAnimals.

“Few, if any, have set these types of traceable goals and the progress to date shows how seriously animal health companies are taking our responsibility to tackle this collective challenge, which poses a threat to lives and livelihoods around the world.”

The new vaccines released in the past two years offer increased protection against disease across many animal species including cattle, poultry and pigs.

Scientists say vaccines are essential to reducing the risk of drug resistance developing by preventing diseases in animals that could otherwise lead to antibiotic treatment, such as salmonella, bovine respiratory disease and infectious bronchitis.

In addition to producing vaccines, the industry has launched a series of other preventative products that contribute to lower levels of livestock disease, minimising the need for antibiotics in livestock.

The companies produced 17 new diagnostic tools out of a target of 20 to help vets prevent, identify and treat diseases earlier, as well as seven nutritional supplements that boost immune systems.

By comparison, the sector brought three new antibiotics to market in the same period, reflecting the increased investment in developing products that prevent illness and the need for antibiotics in the first place.

The progress report also says the sector helped train more than 650,000 veterinary professionals and provided more than $6.5m in scholarships to vet students over the previous two years.

Dr Patricia Turner, president of World Veterinary Association said: “Veterinarians understand that antimicrobial resistance is truly a ‘One Health’ challenge, and tackling it requires work across human and animal health sectors.

“The new tools and training provided by the animal health sector will support veterinarians and producers to reduce the need for antimicrobials in animals, which better safeguards people and the environment.

"We congratulate the animal health sector for the progress achieved to date towards reaching their Roadmap targets.”

The next progress report is expected in 2023.