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Weekly Overview: Antibiotics: You Can't Control What You Don't Measure

09 October 2014

GLOBAL - Two reports have been published in the last week on antibiotic use for animals, one from the United States and the other from the European Union. From Sweden comes a scientific paper suggesting that low concentrations of heavy metals and antibiotics can contribute to resistance. Two types of low-pathogenic avian flu virus have been found circulating in commercial ostriches in South Africa.

Judicious use of antibiotics for farm animals make sense from every point of view – animal health, welfare, productivity – while minimising the risk of antimicrobial resistance.

In order to understand what we mean by "judicious use" and to ensure these drugs are not used carelessly, it's important to know where we stand. It appears that there is very little information on how much of which types of antibiotics are used, for which conditions and in which species.

The Danes have been recording this data for some years but other countries vary so widely in the details of the data collected that it is impossible to drawn comparisons between countries or identify best practice.

However, two reports published in the last week shed some light on antibiotic use for veterinary purposes.

For the United States, the total quantity of medically important antimicrobials sold or distributed for use in food-producing animals increased by 16 per cent over the period 2009-2012, according to the Food and Drug Administration's fourth annual report summarising the sales and distribution data of these drugs.

That the amount used has risen is not a good sign but there could be reasonable explanations for this. The proportion of these drugs that are described as 'medically important' has fallen over the years studied.

Although the poultry data were not studied in detail, a new survey of over 3,000 vets in the European Union has shed light on the drugs most often prescribed for which conditions in other farm animal species.

A study at Uppsala University in Sweden published recently reveals that very low concentrations of heavy metals and antibiotics contribute to resistance.

Changing topic, 'Keeping the Poultry Business Profitable with European Standards' was the theme of the annual General Assembly of the European Poultry Producers and Exporters Association, avec, held last week in Marseille, France.

And finally, on news of bird flu, there have been no new cases of the disease in poultry in Russia or the Netherlands. Two low-pathogenic forms – H5N2 and H7N1 – have been reported in commercial ostriches in South Africa recently, however.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

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