July 5, 2021


EFSA report notes drop in use of antibiotics on livestock



Antibiotic uses have dropped and is now lower in food-producing animals than in humans, according to the latest report published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).


Taking a "One Health" approach, the report presents data on antibiotic consumption and development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Europe for 2016-2018.


Antimicrobial medicines consumption (AMC) in both sectors, expressed in mg/kg of estimated biomass, was compared at country and European level.


Substantial variations in AMC between countries were observed in human and food animal sectors. In each year over the period of 2016–2018, overall AMC was lower in food-producing animals (for example in 2017, 108.3 mg/kg, range 3.1–423.1) than in humans (in 2017, 130.0 mg/kg, range 52.8–212.6). This is the first time the situation has been reported since JIACRA analyses were initiated on 2011 data.


The significant fall in antibiotic use in food-producing animals suggests that the measures taken at country level to reduce use are proving to be effective. Use of a class of antibiotics called polymyxins, which includes colistin, nearly halved between 2016 and 2018 in food-producing animals. This is a positive development, as polymyxins are also used in hospitals to treat patients infected with multidrug-resistant bacteria.


The picture in the European Union is diverse – the situation varies significantly by country and by antibiotic class.


For example, aminopenicillins, third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins and quinolones (fluoroquinolones and other quinolones) are used more in humans than in food-producing animals, while polymyxins (colistin) and tetracyclines are used more in food-producing animals than in humans.


The report also identifies links between antimicrobial consumption in animals and AMR in bacteria from food-producing animals, which in turn is associated with AMR in bacteria from humans. An example of this is Campylobacter spp. bacteria, which were found in food producing animals and caused foodborne infections in humans.


Experts found an association between resistance in these bacteria in animals and resistance in the same bacteria in humans.