Animal production

Principles of antibiotic use in animal husbandry

Basic information about antibiotics.

Antibiotics are the most important medical discovery, which in the 1940s established a breakthrough in the treatment of bacterial diseases in both humans and animals. They are substances which, in low concentrations, have a bactericidal and bacteriostatic effect on microorganisms, causing them to be killed or their growth and development to be inhibited, respectively. Hence the name ‘antibiotic’, which derives from a combination of the two Greek words ‘anti’ and ‘bios’, which literally means ‘against life’. Its originator was the discoverer of streptomycin, Selman Waksman.

Currently, antibiotics of natural, semi-synthetic and synthetic origin, as well as chemotherapeutics, are used in medicine. The former are produced by certain bacteria, actinomycetes and fungi. Semi-synthetic preparations, on the other hand, are derivatives of the natural starting product, obtained through chemical modification. Synthetic preparations, on the other hand, are the result of laboratory reconstitution of compounds of natural origin. The last group, chemotherapeutics, has no equivalent in nature.

Antibiotics exhibit antibacterial and some also antifungal properties. They have found widespread use to date, including in the treatment of many diseases such as tuberculosis, the containment of pruritic infections and the treatment of previously fatal infections. When administered to patients in surgical procedures, they increase their chances of survival and recovery. However, these compounds are not effective against viruses.

Their therapeutic effect depends not only on the type of active substance and its spectrum of action, but also on the individually selected drug dose that is safe for the patient’s health. This applies to both humans and the animals being treated. The overuse of antibiotics through uncontrolled prophylactic and therapeutic use leads to the development of drug resistance, immunosuppression, sterilisation and allergies.