WASHINGTON (March 8, 2021) — The International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture (ICASA), a public-private partnership established by the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) to advance research on antimicrobial stewardship in animal agriculture, awarded grants to four organizations for research supporting the development of animal-health monitoring and diagnostic technologies.
ICASA is awarding these four grants in response to the consortium’s January 2020 call for research concepts that improve animal health through the improvement and/or validation of animal-health monitoring or rapid in-field, pen-side or animal-side diagnostic tools. These technologies are improving antimicrobial stewardship in animal production, reducing the potential for resistance and providing actionable information to antimicrobial prescribers.
ICASA awarded funds to the following grantees for their bold research advancing antimicrobial stewardship:
- Dr. Harvey Morgan Scott with the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science at Texas A&M University received $250,000 to customize a rapid, handheld diagnostic tool for detection of antimicrobial resistance in beef cattle. Five Rivers Cattle Feeders, Cactus Research, NG Biotech and Texas A&M University are contributing matching funds for a total $522,833 investment.
Dr. Scott is adapting a novel and rapid handheld diagnostic, the DetecTool, that is currently used to analyze samples in human medicine. He will modify the technology to evaluate antibiotic resistance in samples from feedyard cattle suffering from bovine respiratory disease (BRD), an ailment that costs US producers approximately $1 billion annually. Information on the resistance of pathogens to different antimicrobials will enable the selection of appropriate treatment strategies for optimal health outcomes, minimizing potential public health consequences.
- Dr. Timothy L. Robertson with Precision Livestock Technologies received $247,470 to develop artificial intelligence and computer-vision based automated monitoring of beef cattle. Five Rivers Cattle Feeders, JBS, Veterinary Research and Consulting Services, Bennett Data Science, Alltech and Iowa State University contributed matching funds for a total $626,745 investment.
Precision Livestock Technologies is developing tools that monitor animal movement and physical attributes to detect behaviors and visible abnormalities that could be early signs of disease. The benefits of automated animal monitoring tools include earlier intervention and reduction in the spread of infectious diseases, reduction in unnecessary medical treatments, enhanced animal welfare and improved producer profitability.
- Dr. Mohit Verma with Purdue University received $250,000 to develop a biosensor for detection of antimicrobial resistance genes. Cactus Feeders, Five Rivers Cattle Feeders, Tyson Foods and McDonald’s are contributing matching funds for a total $500,000 investment.
BRD treatment strategies are complicated by the emergence of antibiotic resistance in pathogens. Currently, characterizing the antibiotic resistance profile of pathogens requires submitting samples to a diagnostic lab and waiting several days for results. Purdue University researchers are developing a pen-side biosensor that uses DNA amplification to identify genetic markers of antibiotic resistance. Researchers are also developing models to determine optimal antibiotic choice, based on the biosensor results. These biosensors are expected to substantially reduce the treatment failure rate for BRD.
- Dr. Adam Rivers with USDA-ARS received $151,082 to develop a gas sensor coupled with machine learning technologies for sensitive detection of BRD. VRCS and McDonald’s provided matching funds for a total $302,164 investment.
The ability of producers to rapidly identify cattle infected with BRD before the onset of severe disease would enable the targeted use of therapeutics. USDA-ARS researchers are analyzing gases emitted from cattle’s breath, known as volatile organic compounds (VOC), to identify signatures associated with early-stage BRD infection. Researchers are using very sensitive, high-speed Proton Transfer Reaction mass spectrometer technology and machine learning methods to analyze the VOCs. This will enable researchers to develop models and a real-time classifier for disease detection, informing antimicrobial use and other interventions to preserve animal health.
Maintaining the efficacy of antibiotics is a complex issue affecting both human and animal health. The responsible use of antibiotics is a top priority for livestock producers. FFAR established ICASA in 2019 with an initial $7.5 million investment to fund research that promotes targeted antibiotic use, advances animal health and welfare and increases transparency in food production practices. The private sector is matching FFAR’s investment for a total $15 million investment in antibiotic stewardship research.
Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.
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International Consortia for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture
The International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture (ICASA) is a public-private partnership created by the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) to advance research on antimicrobial stewardship in animal agriculture. ICASA’s research promotes the judicious use of antibiotics, advances animal health and wellness and increases transparency in food production practices.