Research Topic

Low-dose antibiotics: current status and outlook for the future

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While working at Lederle Laboratories (American Cyanamid) in the late 1940s, animal nutritionist Robert Stokstad and biochemist Thomas Jukes have accidentally discovered the growth promoting effects of the Streptomyces aureofaciens biomass left after fermentation and extraction of aureomycin ...

While working at Lederle Laboratories (American Cyanamid) in the late 1940s, animal nutritionist Robert Stokstad and biochemist Thomas Jukes have accidentally discovered the growth promoting effects of the Streptomyces aureofaciens biomass left after fermentation and extraction of aureomycin (chlortetracycline) on chickens. This discovery occurred during a search for sources of vitamin B-12 and the debris of S. auerofaciens contained a substantial amount of it. It appeared to be, however, that the growth promoting property is not due to the vitamin but due to the low residual antibiotic left in the biomass. Ensuing the discovery, Cyanamid pioneered the development of antibiotic feed additives and this lead was promptly followed by many other companies and countries around the globe.
The growing threat of antibiotic resistance among pathogens, however, posed questions regarding the usage of antibiotics beyond the absolutely necessary cases of antibiotic treatment for human and animal infectious diseases. Discussions regarding a possible link between the use of subtherapeutic antibiotics in animals and the emergence of antibiotic resistant pathogens have been ongoing for a number of years now and some countries such as in the EU have already phased out this practice. The question, however, remains, what are the actual mechanisms of animal growth promotion by subtherapeutic antibiotics? If there are indeed the cost, animal welfare and environmental benefits resulting from this practice? If so, can these mechanisms be emulated by other, non-antimicrobial, means? What alternatives are on the horizon? Additionally, there is a whole field of research dealing with the effects of low-dose antibiotics, not only on bacteria but also on eukaryotic organisms. What are the mechanisms of anti/pro-inflammatory and other less defined activities of low-dose antibiotics as signalling molecules in humans and animals? Could these be contributing factors to animal performance enhancement and also to human health in terms of metabolic disorder/weight gain/obesity risks? And going back to microbes, - any new works/ideas regarding the signalling role of low-dose antibiotics in bacteria and microbial ecosystems? Or take the economy of antibiotic discovery programs: is it heavily dependent on the financial base generated by antibiotic growth promoters? If so, should it be supported through other, independent, sources? Any new epidemiological data on antibiotic usage and antibiotic resistance? There are a lot of questions to ask and the list by no means is finite.
Thus submissions are welcome that try to respond to these and other questions in the area of low-dose antibiotics. These can be made in any format accepted by Frontiers.


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