As noted in prior posts, antibiotics are used not only to treat disease in animals, but also to prevent disease and to stimulate growth. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry has lead to the rapid development of bacteria that are resistant to such antibiotics. This poses a two-fold risk to humans. One is that the bacteria itself may be of the type that causes disease in humans. The other is that the bacteria may swap DNA with disease causing organisms, thereby spreading its resistant characteristics to bacteria that can cause disease in humans. (As noted in prior posts, bacteria swap genes with unfortunate regularity.)
Researchers have now found that feeding swine seaweed and licorice enhance the immune function of swine. This preliminary examination of the issue (which used sophisticated assessment of swine immune function) opens an interesting door to methods that may decrease the need for antibiotics in animal husbandry.
The report can be found at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1740-0929.2010.00826.x/abstract.