The work of the pig sector in recording and reducing antibiotic use has been praised in a new cross-departmental Government antimicrobial resistance (AMR) action plan.
A new 5-year National Action Plan and a longer-term ‘UK AMR 20-year Vision’ setting out how the UK will contribute to controlling the global problem of AMR by 2040 were launched by Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The plans include a number of targets for improved antibiotic stewardship, such as cutting the number of human drug-resistant infections by 10% (5,000 infections) by 2025 and reducing the use of antibiotics in humans by 15%.
It also covers antibiotics in livestock, highlighting the Government’s commitment to working with vets and farmers to further reduce antibiotic use in animals by 25% between 2016 and 2020, with objectives to be refreshed by 2021. Sector targets were established in October 2017, including a pig industry target of cutting overall use to 99mg/PCU by 2020.
The reports underline the 40% reduction in antibiotic use achieved by UK livestock farming since the last strategy was published five years ago.
They also highlight the need for more robust data in the livestock sector. “In the UK, although good data on overall antibiotic use is now available for many livestock sectors, it can be improved in others,” the five-year report states. “There is also a need for more information on various related factors such as reasons for treatment, demographic, disease and treatment history.”
As a case study, the report explains how the eMB-Pigs database developed by AHDB allows producers to record antibiotic usage on a quarterly basis and is a requirement of the Red Tractor and Quality Meat Scotland schemes. The benchmarking option ‘helps stimulate the farmer-vet conversation’ and encourages higher users to review usage, the report adds.
Mr Hancock said there was an urgency to act to address AMR. “Antimicrobial resistance is as big a danger to humanity as climate change or warfare. That’s why we need an urgent global response,” he said.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The increase in antibiotic resistance is a threat we cannot afford to ignore. It is vital that we tackle the spread of drug-resistant infections before routine operations and minor illnesses become life-threatening. I am very proud of the UK’s global leadership on this important agenda.”
The report was welcomed by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA), which has worked with the livestock sectors on establishing and implementing antibiotic reduction targets.
RUMA chairman Gwyn Jones said the reports underline the progress by UK livestock farming over the last five years and show the potential the industry has to be a ‘future world leader in responsible use of antibiotics’.
He said: “The new 5-year National Action Plan will support our plans to continue progress in reducing, refining or replacing antibiotic use.”
He said the report focuses on in the chapters on food-producing animals, such as planning ahead to prevent disease wherever possible, ensuring appropriate and responsible use of antibiotics only where necessary and improving the quality of data, were areas already central to the individual sector targets.
“We anticipate antibiotic use will continue to fall – and the aspiration expressed in the Government plan that the result will be a further 25% reduction between 2016 and 2020 is definitely achievable,” he said.
Mr Jones said the next job would be to support each sector in looking at objectives beyond 2020. “These are likely to focus on maintaining responsible use and continuing to improve underlying heath, farm infrastructure, nutrition, genetics and preventative measures,” he added.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies welcomed the plan, which she said highlighted some of the excellent progress made by the pig sector over the past few years.
“The pig sector has halved antibiotic usage over the past two years, cutting use of antibiotics deemed ‘critically important’ to human medicine to negligible levels. And, as the report acknowledges, it has led the way in antibiotic recording,” she said.
“The pig industry has shown itself to up to the antibiotic challenge so far, but it is not complacent about the fact that there is more to be done. We are committed to continuing to improve our antibiotic stewardship.”