Unveiling the impact of antibiotics and alternative methods for animal husbandry: A review

Chuen Xian Low, Loh Teng Hern Tan, Nurul Syakima Ab Mutalib, Priyia Pusparajah, Bey Hing Goh, Kok Gan Chan, Vengadesh Letchumanan, Learn Han Lee

Research output: Journal PublicationReview articlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Since the 1950s, antibiotics have been used in the field of animal husbandry for growth promotion, therapy and disease prophylaxis. It is estimated that up to 80% of the antibiotics produced by the pharmaceutical industries are used in food production. Most of the antibiotics are used as feed additives at sub-therapeutic levels to promote growth. However, studies show the indiscriminate use of antibiotics has led to the emergence of multidrug-resistant pathogens that threaten both animal health and human health, including vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). This scenario is further complicated by the slow progress in achieving scientific breakthroughs in uncovering novel antibiotics following the 1960s. Most of the pharmaceutical industries have long diverted research funds away from the field of antibiotic discovery to more lucrative areas of drug development. If this situation is allowed to continue, humans will return to the pre-antibiotics era and potentially succumb to huge health and economic consequences. Fortunately, studies investigating various alternatives to antibiotics use in livestock show promising results. These alternatives include the application of bacteriophages and phage derived peptidoglycan degrading enzymes, engineered peptides, egg yolk antibodies, probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics, as well as quorum quenching molecules. Therefore, this review aims to discuss the use of growth-promoting antibiotics and their impact on livestock and provide insights on the alternative approaches for animal husbandry.

Original languageEnglish
Article number578
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Antibiotic
  • Growth-promoting
  • Husbandry
  • Livestock
  • Multidrug-resistant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology


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