B.C. researchers developing alternatives to using antibiotics in farming

Project aims to use genomic tools to develop alternatives to antibiotics using antimicrobial peptides.
Canadian Poultry magazine
July 25, 2019
By Canadian Poultry magazine
A $6.9 million research project, funded by Genome Canada and Genome British Columbia, aims to use genomic tools to develop alternatives to antibiotics using antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) — naturally occurring proteins produced by various animals and plant species. There is evidence that AMPs are an effective alternative to conventional antibiotics and, potentially, bacteria are less likely to develop resistance.

Dr. Inanc Birol, a scientist at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre and a professor at the Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia (UBC) will use this funding to scale up previous proof-of-concept work funded through Genome BC's Sector Innovation Program. "We are building on many years of groundbreaking genomics research enabled by Genome Canada, Genome BC and other partners," says Dr. Birol.

His work has already identified new AMPs that are effective against a range of bacteria while demonstrating a computational approach that was faster and more effective at isolating new AMPs. Typically, discovering AMPs from natural sources has used methods that are time-consuming, expensive, and labour intensive.

Dr. Birol and his team aim to identify 10 effective and safe AMPs that will be tested in chicken eggs for protection from major infectious diseases. The team will also conduct an in-depth analysis of the economic, ethical, and regulatory issues related to using AMPs in agriculture, and will assess the opinions of stakeholders from the farming and food industries as well as the general public.

"Antimicrobial resistance threatens to send us back to a time when even the simplest of infections could be lethal," says Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Sectors at Genome BC. "AMPs have strong potential to reduce or even replace the use of conventional antibiotics in the agricultural sector, maintaining economic productivity, while benefiting both animal and human health."

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