Antibiotics keep farm animals healthy and promote their growth, but excessive antibiotic use no doubt contributes to antibiotic resistance. This has spurred the public to push for greater restrictions on antibiotic use in agriculture (see video below). Even though the majority of antibiotic-resistant infections arise in hospital settings, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges an important role for farms. While antibiotics are required to treat sick animals, CDC Director Tom Frieden insists "there are specific situations in which the widespread use of antimicrobials in agriculture has resulted in an increase in resistant infections in humans".
The Mexican company Grupo Nutec has a solution. They developed a dietary supplement aimed at drastically decreasing antibiotic use on farms. "Proflora" contains phytobiotics (a clear description of these eludes me) and plant extracts such as oleoresin, cinnamon, chili, and ginger. According to Rodrigo Garcia Ortega, an engineer at Grupo Nutec, these ingredients are thought to augment the immune system by improving processes such as antigen recognition and antibody production. Moreover, Proflora claims to bolster gut flora to better fight intestinal diseases.
The idea is simple. Proflora strengthens an animal's immune system, making it more resistant to infectious disease. This, in turn, decreases the need for antibiotics, nipping antibiotic resistance in the bud.
The jury is still out on the effectiveness of Proflora, although the company sold more than 500 tons of the powdered supplement in 2014. Grupo Nutec is currently collaborating with the Institute of Biotechnology of the National University of Mexico to validate Proflora's effect on gene expression in immune cells.