Canadian Poultry Magazine

Drugs and Biologicals in the New Millennium

By Jorgen Jorgensen Intervet Canada   

Features 100th anniversary Research Research

January 2000

The past decade in animal health has been influenced by an increasing consumer awareness, especially in Europe. That trend resulting in large part from a much faster exchange of news and information, is expected to continue with the same intensity throughout North America.

Some trade barriers are rooted in real food safety concerns, basically because of fear, but the politicians have to be concerned on behalf of the electorate. Consumers demand more than testimonials from experts and scientists. Many are fed up with the cheapest possible products and insist on quality in every respect, a demand extending to animal health industries.

Drugs and pharmaceuticals will still be developed but we will see no further development of antibiotics for some time because of steadily rising costs. The last antibiotic used in both the human field and animal husbandry was fluroquinolones, which have come under severe attack, not only from small consumer groups but from independent scientists and established national authorities. Animal health companies would be wise to pull out of the large animal market since the human market is much more lucrative and prestigious. The Danish experience has shown that other measures such as improved hygienic measurements and feed will give the same result as antibiotic feed additives.


Prudent trend setters in agriculture have set up better disease control systems and herd health survey systems in their barns in co-operation with the veterinary society. Hopefully, the vet society is aware of its responsibilities and will continue to master applied science. HACCP is a beginning.

The European ban on growth hormones is generally supported by consumers, but is under attack from British scientists who question the reasons behind the ban. And if the consumer is in doubt, she will not buy the product.

Introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is largely blocked by European consumers, and a campaign against GMOs has been launched in Canada. U.S. consumers have largely ignored the debate in Europe, although a bill may soon be introduced that would require labeling on meat products. The Food and Drug Administration will also review its policy on genetically modified foods.

Animal Health companies in the biological business are relatively safe. The general trend is toward prophylaxes. Vaccines based on new biotechnology have already been developed; for example, vaccines

for E. coli, equine influenza, Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, and Gumboro.

Marker vaccines that allow vaccination and eradication programs go hand in hand and we will probably see more of these. Conventionally developed vaccines, both live and killed, are generally of high standard and will continue to serve in the future. Biotechnology will help concentrate on specific attenuation and new ways of combining or compiling antigenic determinants for example, new combinations of

non-reactive Newcastle and a Marek’s disease vaccine are a possibility in the future.

What we probably will also see more of are vector vaccines, i.e. vaccines using a carrier virus with no pathogenecity to carry the wanted immunological determinants into the animal’s immunological system. This has already been introduced in small animal vaccines.

New carrier and delivery systems are being worked on. The most recent progress in modern vaccine technology is with intradermal or intramuscular application of so-called naked DNA. Much more work will be done on bacterial and protozoal disease protection using the new techniques.

Much of today’s work is focused on salmonella vaccines of different kinds and constructed in different ways. Salmonella is a disease which is here to stay and will continue as a potential threat to human food safety. Coccidiosis vaccines are used today only in breeders because of the cost, but will be tailor-made for the large broiler segment.

Presented at the Poultry Industry Council Poultry Health Conference in Kitchener, Ont.

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