PeptAid – Antimicrobial peptides to replace antibiotics in farm veterinary practice

Antibiotic drugs are routinely used in agriculture, with the aim of reducing livestock deaths from infectious causes and helping to protect human health by preventing outbreaks of food-borne illness. However, overuse of antibiotics in the past has caused some bacteria to become resistant to these drugs, contributing to a looming crisis whereby infectious diseases in humans and animals are becoming more dangerous and difficult to treat.

This project is about developing antibiotic alternatives based on naturally occurring proteins, called antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), that are produced by several species to fight bacterial infections. There is evidence that AMPs are very effective and that bacteria are less likely to develop resistance to AMPs than to conventional antibiotics. We build on previous proof-of-concept work in which we have identified new AMPs that are effective against a range of bacteria and that are not toxic to animal cells and have improved their effectiveness through computational techniques.

We will refine our AMP identification and development pipeline to identify ten effective and safe AMPs and will test them in chicken eggs to determine whether they protect newly hatched chicks from major infectious diseases that are of current concern to the poultry production industry. We will also conduct an in-depth analysis of the economic, ethical, and regulatory issues related to using AMPs in agriculture, and will assess the opinions of stakeholders from the farming and food industries as well as the public. We believe that AMPs have strong potential to reduce or even replace the use of conventional antibiotics in the agricultural sector, maintaining economic productivity while benefiting animal and consumer health.

Collaboration with BC Cancer Genome Sciences Centre, BC Centre for Disease Control, UBC

Funded by Genome Canada and Genome BC