Science - June 26, 2015

Decrease animal medication stagnates

Albert Sikkema

The use of antibiotics in livestock farming has in 2014, after years of significant decrease, barely diminished. That is evident from the Maran-report on antibiotics use and resistance in the Netherlands that was published today. Additional measurements are needed to achieve the intended reduction with 70 percent.

The antibiotics use did not decrease anymore in 2014 in most livestock sectors. Only in the dairy sector the use decreased sharply. In the broiler sector the use even increased, after years of sharp decline. Because of that lower use, the resistance in animals against antibiotics has also decreased, the report states. However, there are concerns with experts that bacteria are becoming resistant to a growing number of antibiotics, also against the ‘last resort’ that for now still heal bacterial infections properly. Therefore, the use of antibiotics in livestock farming should be reduced further, they advise.

Last year the use of antibiotics in livestock farming decreased by 4.4 percent compared to 2013. Since 2009, the use has declined by 58 percent. A nice performance, but the goal - a reduction of 70 percent in 2015 compared to 2009 - is unlikely to be achieved this way, note the authors of the report.

The decrease in use of antibiotics is necessary to reduce the amount of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That resistance has been reduced in recent years, but now also stabilizes. A great measure of the ESBL-producing E. coli bacteria that is resistant to the antibiotic cefotaxime. That bacteria was found last year in 67 percent of the broilers, 34 percent of the laying hens, 18 percent of the pigs and 9 percent of the cows. Although the number of ESBL chickens decreased, the chickens often contain ESBLs that also infect humans, the experts note. So it is necessary that, for the sake of public health, the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry will be decreased further.

The Maran report is established by the Central Veterinary Institute (CVI) of Wageningen UR, the RIVM, the Food and Drugs Authority (NVWA), the Working Party on Antibiotic Policy and the Foundation Veterinary Medicines Authority (SDA). The latter organization examined with veterinarians how often they prescribe antibiotics. This monitoring should result in targeted advice to veterinarians and farmers to reduce the use.

Supply companies also have new systems on the market to improve the animal health in the livestock industry. Companies presented on the Open Innovation Days of practical center Sterksel on June 19 amongst others water purification systems and new stable concepts to improve the health of pigs, thereby reducing the consumption of medicines.

More on the Maran reports can be found here