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  • Translator: Ivana Korom Reviewer: Krystian Aparta

  • There was a time when simple infections were deadly,

  • but now, thanks to the wide availability of antibiotics,

  • this is merely a relic of the past.

  • But actually, I should say "was,"

  • because nowadays, we're using antibiotics so much

  • that the bacteria that cause these infections

  • are becoming resistant.

  • And that should really scare the hell out of all of us.

  • If we do not change our behavior and wean ourselves off antibiotics,

  • the UN predicts that by 2050,

  • antimicrobial resistance will become our single biggest killer.

  • So we must start to act.

  • But "where to begin" is an interesting question,

  • because we humans are not the only ones using antibiotics.

  • Worldwide, 50 to 80 percent of all antibiotics are used by animals.

  • Not all of these are critical for human health,

  • but if we do not get it under control right now,

  • we're looking at a very scary future for humans and animals alike.

  • To begin, let's talk about how we ended up here.

  • The first large-scale use of antibiotics was in the early '50s of the last century.

  • In the Western world, prosperity was increasing

  • and people wanted to eat more animal protein.

  • When animals were sick, you could now treat them with antibiotics

  • so they did not die and kept growing.

  • But soon, it was discovered

  • that adding small and regular amounts of antibiotics to the feed

  • kept the animals healthy,

  • made them grow faster

  • and caused them to need less feed.

  • So these antibiotics worked well --

  • really well, actually.

  • And with increasing animal production,

  • also antibiotic use skyrocketed worldwide.

  • Unfortunately, so did antibiotic resistance.

  • The reason your doctor tells you to finish the entire bottle of antibiotics

  • is if you shorten your dose, you will not kill all of the bugs.

  • And the ones that stick around build up the antibiotic resistance.

  • It's the same problem with giving animals small and regular doses of antibiotics:

  • some bad bugs die but not all of them.

  • Spread that across an entire industry,

  • and you can understand that we accidentally build up

  • a large reservoir of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

  • But I hate to break it to you --

  • the problem doesn't stop there.

  • You know who else takes antibiotics?

  • Fluffy, your cat, and Rover, your dog.

  • (Laughter)

  • Pets rank even amongst the heaviest users of all,

  • and they use antibiotics

  • that are much more critical for human health.

  • Combine this with how close we live with our companion animals

  • and you understand the risk

  • of you picking up antibiotic-resistant bacteria from your own pet.

  • But how do these antibiotic-resistant bacteria

  • in farm animals affect you?

  • Let me give you an example we have, actually, data on.

  • The levels of antibiotic-resistant salmonella in pigs in Europe

  • against different types of antibiotics

  • range from less than a percent to as high [as] 60 percent.

  • Which means that in most cases,

  • this antibiotic will not work anymore to kill this salmonella.

  • And there was a high correlation

  • between antibiotic-resistant salmonella in the pig

  • and in the final product.

  • Whether that is pork chop,

  • spare ribs or minced meat.

  • Now, luckily, typically less than one percent

  • of all raw meat, fish or eggs

  • will contain salmonella.

  • And this only poses a risk when not treated well.

  • Still, there are over 100,000 human salmonella cases in the EU

  • and more than a million cases in the US.

  • In the US, leading to 23,000 hospitalizations

  • and 450 people dead each year.

  • With antibiotic-resistant salmonella on the rise,

  • this death toll is likely to increase.

  • But it's not only about consuming yourself.

  • This year, more than 100 people got infected

  • with a multidrug-resistant salmonella

  • after feeding pig ears, as a treat, to their dog.

  • So we really must cut back on antibiotic use in animal production.

  • And luckily, this is starting to happen.

  • The EU was the first region to ban

  • putting antibiotics in low doses in the feed.

  • From '99 on, in several steps,

  • the amount of different types of antibiotics allowed was reduced,

  • and in 2006, a complete ban went into place.

  • Antibiotics were only allowed

  • when a veterinarian determined the animal was sick.

  • Sounds great, right?

  • Problem solved.

  • No, wait, not so fast.

  • As soon as the reduction program started,

  • it was very quickly discovered

  • that antibiotics had been the perfect blanket

  • to cover up a lot of bad farm practices.

  • More and more animals became sick

  • and needed to be cured with ... antibiotics.

  • So instead of the total amount going down,

  • it actually increased.

  • Surely, that was not the way to go.

  • But luckily, that was not the end of the story.

  • The whole European agricultural sector started on a journey,

  • and I think it's a journey anybody can learn from.

  • This is also the time I personally entered the scene.

  • I joined a large European feed compounder.

  • A feed compounder makes a total diet for a farmer to feed to his animals

  • and often also provides the advice

  • on how to raise the animals in the best way.

  • I was really motivated to work together with my colleagues,

  • veterinarians and, of course, the farmers

  • to figure out how to keep the animals healthy and antibiotic-free.

  • Now there are three major things that need to happen

  • for antibiotic-free production.

  • Let me walk you through the playbook.

  • To start -- and it sounds very obvious --

  • that our hygiene is the place to start.

  • Better cleaning of the stable and the drinking-water lines

  • making it harder for the disease to come in and spread across the stable.

  • That's all very important,

  • but the part I was personally most interested in

  • was better feeding for the animals,

  • better nutrition.

  • Feeding a well-balanced diet is important.

  • Think about it this way:

  • when you yourself do not eat enough fiber, you do not feel well.

  • Part of the food you consume is not digested by yourself

  • but fermented in your large intestine by bacteria.

  • So you're feeding those microbes with part of your diet.

  • Initially, most young animals were fed low-fiber,

  • high-starch and protein,

  • very finely ground and highly digestible diets.

  • Like being yourself on a diet of hamburger buns,

  • rice, waffles and protein bars.

  • We changed this to a lower-protein,

  • higher-fiber, coarser type of diet.

  • Like being on a diet of whole grains, salad with meat or beans.

  • This shifted the bacterial flora in the animals' guts

  • to the more beneficial ones

  • and reduced the chance that pathogens would flourish.

  • You might be surprised

  • but not only diet composition, also diet structure plays a role.

  • Simply the fact that the same diet is coarser

  • will lead to a better-developed digestive tract,

  • and thus, a healthier animal.

  • But the best part was that farmers started to buy this actually, too.

  • Unlike some other parts of the world,

  • Western European farmers mainly still make their independent buying decisions:

  • who to buy the feed from and sell their animals to.

  • So what you're actually selling in the end

  • reflects the actual local need of these farmers.

  • For example,

  • the protein content in piglet diets

  • in countries that are much more vigilant in reducing antibiotics,

  • like, for example, Germany and the Netherlands,

  • were already 10 to 15 percent lower

  • than in a country like the UK, which was slower to pick this up.

  • But, like with better hygiene, better nutrition helps

  • but will not totally prevent you from becoming sick.

  • So more is needed.

  • And that's why we turned to the microbiome.

  • Making the water with the feed more acidic

  • helps to create an environment

  • that benefits the more beneficial bacteria

  • and inhibits the pathogens.

  • Like fermented food,

  • whether it's yogurt, sauerkraut or salami,

  • they'll all spoil less quickly, too.

  • Now, with modern techniques,

  • like the ones based on DNA testing,

  • we can see that there are many more different microorganisms present.

  • And this ecosystem, which we call the microbiome,

  • is much more complex.

  • Turns out there are about eight times more microorganisms in your gut

  • as tissue cells in your body.

  • And for animals, the impact is no less.

  • So if we want to work without antibiotics in animal production,

  • we have to make the animals much more robust.

  • So that when a disease strikes,

  • the animals are much more resilient.

  • And this three-pronged nutribiosis approach

  • involving the host, nutrition and the microbiome

  • is the way to do it.

  • Now the practice of raising animals on an antibiotic-containing

  • or antibiotic-use-provoking diet is a bit cheaper at farm level.

  • But in the end, we are talking about a few percent at the consumer level.

  • That's actually quite affordable

  • for the middle- and high-income part of the world population.

  • And a very small price to pay

  • when our own health or our loved ones' health is at stake.

  • So what do you think, what direction do we take?

  • Do we allow antimicrobial resistance to become our biggest killer,

  • at huge financial and a special personal cost?

  • Or do we, besides reducing human antibiotic consumption,

  • truly start embracing antibiotic-free animal production?

  • For me, the choice is very obvious.

  • But to make this happen,

  • we have to set reduction targets

  • and make sure that they're followed all around the world.

  • Because farmers compete with each other.

  • And at a country level,

  • trading block or the global market,

  • costs are very important.

  • And also, we have to be realistic.

  • Farmers need to have the possibilities

  • to invest more in better management and better feed

  • in order to achieve this reduction.

  • And besides legal limits, the market can play a role,

  • by offering antibiotic-reduced or antibiotic-free products.

  • And with growing consumer awareness,

  • these market forces will increase in power.

  • Now everything I've been talking about seems to be great for us.

  • But what about the animals?

  • Now, guess what, their lives get better, too.

  • Better health, less stress, happier life.

  • So now you know.

  • We have the knowledge how to produce meat, eggs and milk

  • without or with very low amounts of antibiotics,

  • and I'll argue it's a small price to pay

  • to avoid a future in which bacterial infections

  • again become our biggest killer.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Translator: Ivana Korom Reviewer: Krystian Aparta

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