ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE The overuse of antibiotics is not only evident in the human population, but it crosses over into animals and livestock. We hear from two experts on innovations in the reduction of antibiotic use in the field.
Reducing antibiotic use in livestock
It is great to see antibiotic use in UK livestock continue to fall, with significant reductions in all the major species. This results from a real effort in all sectors regardless of the overall level of use in each. The ‘targets task force’, co-ordinated by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance, has succeeded in setting stretching goals for each of the eight major livestock sectors against which real progress is being made, driving down use beyond the overall target set by government of 50mg/kg which was met in 2016.
Livestock sectors focus on disease prevention
By aiming to reduce levels of use to as low as possible, taking into account the challenges for each species and production system, the sectors have had to focus on disease prevention. Unlike human populations, where disease has to be tackled across the age groups – from neonates to the elderly and in a range of situations including elective surgery – livestock populations are generally young and healthy and in environments controlled by human management.
Disease can therefore be prevented by good management; keeping animals healthy and less susceptible to disease, reducing exposure to disease by biosecurity measures, and vaccination to make them immune to specific pathogens.
Essential funding for research into vaccines
However, bacterial disease can never be completely prevented. When it happens, we have a duty to use antibiotics responsibly and it is encouraging to see the low and reducing levels of use of high priority critically important antimicrobials (HP-CIAs). Challenges remain in some sectors but I expect progress to continue. To help all the sectors we need to maintain funding for research into new vaccines, management systems and better diagnostics.