Treatment, promotion, commotion: antibiotic alternatives in food-producing animals

Trends Microbiol. 2013 Mar;21(3):114-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2012.11.001.


Alternatives to antibiotics are urgently needed in animal agriculture. The form these alternatives should take presents a complex problem due to the various uses of antibiotics in animal agriculture, including disease treatment, disease prevention, and growth promotion, and to the relative contribution of these uses to the antibiotic resistance problem. Numerous antibiotic alternatives, such as pre- and probiotics, have been proposed but show variable success. This is because a fundamental understanding of how antibiotics improve feed efficiency is lacking, and because an individual alternative is unlikely to embody all of the performance-enhancing functions of antibiotics. High-throughput technologies need to be applied to better understand the problem, and informed combinations of alternatives, including vaccines, need to be considered.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry / methods*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy*
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Growth Substances / therapeutic use*
  • Veterinary Medicine / methods*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Growth Substances