Antibiotic alternatives may offer treatment options for producers

Producers need more alternatives to antibiotics for treating their animals as antibiotic restrictions loom and bacterial resistance to common antibiotics becomes more routine.

Graeme McRae of NovaVive, an Ontario company that produces immunobiology-based technologies, said products that naturally stimulate the immune system may offer an alternative.

The company has received government approval for a product to treat bacterial scours in newborn calves. It is recognized as a veterinary biologic and is provided by veterinarians.

Sold under the brand name Amplimune, it is derived from mycobacterium, a natural product distantly related to the same bacteria responsible for tuberculosis in humans and animals, as well as Johne’s disease.

Research has found cell walls carry four different immune modulators and NovaVive identified the same immune modulators in a safe version as the disease-causing microbes.

“The characteristics that they have is they are immune modulators,” said McRae.

“They really are very potent bacteria for turning the immune system on, but we have never been able to use them because they would give a false positive result to a skin test for testing animals for tuberculosis,” he said.

Amplimune has been tested on baby calves that did not receive colostrum.

“If you have a healthy calf, nothing happens because there is nothing for it to fight. If you have a calf that is incubating something, the immune system turns on and deals with the disease and then turns the immune system off naturally about seven days later,” he said.

There are no residues after treatment and no resistance.

The product has been tested by university researchers and the company hopes to add more treatment recommendations to the label.

Various antibiotic alternative products are available on the market. To be certain of which products to use, consumers must find those that carry registered label claims stating they are approved for use as an alternative to antibiotics.

“If it is registered, it has to pass a very high bar to get that label claim in Canada,” McRae said.

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