Doctors are increasingly prudent about prescribing antibiotics to sick patients because of the threat of super bugs developing. But their efforts will come to little unless the agricultural industry follows suit, a reality the INFarm project tackled. It explored the potential market for an alternative way to treat cattle: an interferon-based drug to stimulate the animal’s immune system. “Immune-stimulating drugs induce the activation or increase the activity of the animal’s own immune system, providing a rapid, potent and broad protective response to all infectious agents,” explains Igor Lokot, board director of FarmPharma which coordinated the project. “Pathogens cannot develop resistance to the interferons since they do not directly work on them.” FarmPharma performed a feasibility study during the project for a new interferon-based drug called InterferOx. It studied the market for cattle treatments and drew up a plan to patent and commercialise the product.
As a result, it forecasts selling InterferOx in 2023 in Europe, followed by the United States a year later. It will shortly be carrying out in vitro and in vivo preclinical trials to demonstrate the potential of the drug against different pathogens. “We are confident that the world needs InterferOx and we are excited to embrace that market and revolutionise the treatment of animals,” says Lokot. Many veterinarians prescribe antibiotics because they seem like the easiest and quickest solution and they don’t have time to test whether the sick animal has a bacterial or viral disease and what type it is. “In some cases the antibiotic doesn’t work at all because it is designed to combat a completely different pathogen,” says Lokot. That overuse of antibiotics is already causing problems. Some 700 000 people die of resistant infections every year and some 10 million lives a year globally will be at risk by 2050 if solutions are not found to slow down the rise of drug resistance, according to a review commissioned by the British government.
Threat to modern medicine
“If (antibiotics) lose their effectiveness, key medical procedures such as gut surgery, caesarean sections, joint replacements, and treatments that depress the immune system, such as chemotherapy for cancer could become too dangerous to perform,” states the report. Of all the antibiotics sold in the world, the bulk of them are bought for use in livestock. In the United States, in 2014, 15.4 million kilograms were for livestock, four times the 3.5 million for humans, says the National Academy of Medicine. “Farmers are not always as aware of the antimicrobial resistance problem as trained physicians and just want to avoid financial losses by keeping their animals alive, inundating them with antibiotics,” explains Lokot. He is convinced when farmers are given a suitable alternative to treat animals they will use fewer antibiotics. Vaccines are another alternative but their effectiveness varies, they only work on preventing viral infections and they are relatively expensive. “InterferOx will help fight not only viral infections but also bacterial ones, and can be used to both treat and prevent diseases,” concludes Lokot.
INFarm, antibiotics, immune systems, antimicrobials, super bugs, interferon-based, antimicrobial resistance, livestock, veterinarians