Antimicrobial Use in Danish Animals Continues Downward Trend

DENMARK - The total antimicrobial consumption in Danish animals has continued to decrease for the third consecutive year.
calendar icon 6 October 2017
clock icon 5 minute read

This is one of the findings of the annual DANMAP report for 2016 from Statens Serum Institut as well as the National Veterinary Institute and the National Food Institute, which are both departments under the Technical University of Denmark.

In 2016, the total antimicrobial consumption (in kilos) by Danish animals was approximately 5 per cent lower than the previous year. It is the third consecutive year that a decrease has been recorded. Consumption has decreased in pigs, cattle, poultry and fish.

Overall, the veterinary antimicrobial consumption has decreased approximately 10 per cent from 2013 to 2016, which is equivalent to a reduction of 12 tonnes of antimicrobials.

Lower consumption in pig production

The decrease in the total consumption of antimicrobials is primarily due to a 4 per cent (3,349 kg) reduction in the use in the pig production in 2016 compared to 2015. Pig production in Denmark constitutes approximately 85 per cent of the country's meat production and around 75 per cent of the total veterinary-prescribed antimicrobials are used for pigs.

"A reduction in the use of antimicrobials is necessary if we are to tackle the problem of antimicrobial resistant bacteria. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration has in recent years implemented several initiatives to limit consumption, and it is positive to see that the downward trend in consumption continues," says Head of Division Flemming Bager from the National Food Institute.

The use of medicinal zinc - zinc oxide- has also decreased by 4 per cent in 2016 compared to 2015. This drop comes after a doubling in use between 2006 (250 tonnes) and 2015 (500 tonnes). Zinc oxide may lead to resistant bacteria in pigs such as MRSA. Furthermore, most of the zinc oxide ends up in the fields via the manure, where it is a potential environmental problem.

"The recent focus on the use of medicinal zinc in pig production and the correlation between antimicrobial resistance and consumption of medicinal zinc may have led to the reduced use in pigs. The European Commission will phase out the substance by June 2022, and consequently we can expect a continued decrease in consumption in the coming years," Mr Bager says.

Positive trends in consumption by poultry and fish

Following two years with much higher antimicrobial consumption than normal due to several serious disease outbreaks in the broiler production, the consumption by poultry has declined sharply by 36 per cent (880 kilos) from 2015 to 2016. As such, consumption has returned to the pre-outbreak levels.

Antimicrobial consumption in the Danish aquaculture production is the lowest recorded in a decade. This is in large part due to the cooler summer weather, which has resulted in lower water temperatures leading to fewer disease problems.

Positive development in the consumption of critically important antimicrobials Despite an increase in antimicrobial consumption by companion animals from 2015 to 2016, the development over the past five years has been generally positive with a decrease in the total consumption of approximately 11 per cent (160 kg). The consumption of 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins in particular has fallen steadily over the past five years.

"It is positive to note that the consumption of cephalosporins in pets has dropped significantly in recent years. Since cephalosporins are among the antimicrobial agents, which are critically important for the treatment of humans, it is especially important that they are used only when the veterinarian has no other treatment options," Mr Bager explains.

He adds: "It is very important to continue to work towards reducing the use of antimicrobials in pets, as most of the veterinary consumption of critically important antimicrobials is used in pets, who come into close contact with people."

Consumption of critically important antimicrobials - such as cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones - in the animal production is still very low.

"The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration has had a very restrictive approach to the use of fluoroquinolones in production animals for many years, and Danish pork and cattle producers are voluntarily phasing out the use of 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins. These initiatives have been crucial for the Danish success in reducing the use of these antimicrobials," adds Mr Bager.

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