That was the finding of the 10th annual report from the European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC).
The data shows that sales of antibiotics for farm animals in Europe fell from 107mg/PCU in 2017 to 103.2mg/PCU [a standardized unit of animal biomass] in 2018.
The ESVAC report also demonstrated a continuing downward trend in sales of the highest priority antibiotics – 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones and colistin.
The ESVAC project was launched by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in September 2009, following a request from the EU Commission to develop a harmonized approach to the collection and reporting of data on the use of antimicrobial agents in animals from the Member States.
Significant reduction in on-farm use of antibiotics in the UK
UK based not-for-profit group, Responsible use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA), welcoming the report, highlighted that the UK retained its position as having the fifth lowest sales overall, 71% lower than the EU average in terms of mg/PCU.
RUMA chair, Cat McLaughlin, noted the UK’s significant reductions in antibiotic use in farm animals over the past six years. “The efforts and enthusiasm demonstrated by the UK livestock farmers and animal health practitioners to embrace RUMA principles of using antibiotics and other veterinary medicines responsibly to achieve these results has been phenomenal."
She said while the use of antibiotics in food production is not the main driver of antibiotic resistant infections in people, it can be a contributing factor. “Any use of an antibiotic has the potential to create resistance and as part of a One Health approach, we all have a duty to protect the efficacy of medical and veterinary antibiotics by reducing, refining or replacing use."
The UK’s National Pig Association (NPA) said it was very positive to see the downward usage trend across almost all countries, not just in terms of total sales but also the highest priority antibiotics. The NPA stressed that the systems used differ by country and that the ESVAC findings need to be considered in that context.
NPA senior policy adviser, Rebecca Veale, said: "I am very pleased to see the progress that we, and other European countries, have made in responsible antibiotic use. The most important trend is that the use of highest priority critically important antibiotics has declined... we take responsible use of antibiotics so seriously in the pig sector. Therefore, this decline is a very important one."