Industry facing new guidelines for ‘critically important antibiotics’

The UK livestock industry is being asked to reduce use of certain categories of antibiotics deemed to be ‘critically important’, under new guidelines adopted by the Responsible Use of Animal Medicines (RUMA) alliance.

This decision means that under the One Health banner, the UK farming industry should be aiming to reduce use of fluoroquinolones, 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins, and colistin, and only be using these antibiotics where no other product will be effective for the condition being treated.

These antibiotic groups will be be one of the key elements of focus for RUMA’s ‘Targets Task Force’ which is due to report goals for reducing antibiotic use in each livestock sector in October this year. The Task Force will also set wider sector specific antibiotic reduction targets with the National Pig Association and the Pig Veterinary Society (PVS) set to submit a proposal for the pig industry in early June.

RUMA has officially adopted the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA’s) list of highest priority ‘critically important antibiotics’ (CIAs), identified because of degree of risk to human health should antimicrobial resistance develop after use in animals.

Slightly different lists of highest priority CIAs are published by the World Health Organisation, the US Food and Drug Agency and the EMA, generating keen debate within farming and the food chain about which should be observed. The decision for RUMA to adopt the EMA list was made after discussions with its members and with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, which itself follows the EMA’s recommendations.

Highest priority

RUMA secretary general John FitzGerald said different agencies produce their own priority lists as they assess different risks. “The conclusion is that in the UK, the list of highest priority CIAs should reflect the recommendations of the EMA’s Antimicrobial Expert Group,” he said.

“This group, comprising a wide range of specialist European organisations, has made its recommendations after examining the impact the use of antibiotics in animals has on public and animal health in the EU, and measures to manage the possible risk to humans. Most importantly, the EMA’s recommendations are reassessed as new science emerges.

“However, in some cases particular sectors may choose to add other classes of antibiotics where they feel additional monitoring is needed.”

Sales of antibiotics on the EMA’s highest priority CIA list make up a small proportion of the 56mg/PCU total antibiotic use in livestock and UK veterinary sales data show the industry is already acting with reductions in sales of both fluoroquinolones and 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins between 2014 and 2015.

While colistin sales were static between 2014 and 2015, this was at almost 1/10th of the EMA’s recommended level of use. RUMA understands that voluntary restrictions brought in at the end of 2015 following the development of resistance to colistin internationally mean that 2016 sales data, to be published at the end of the year, should show reductions in colistin use.

In an interview in the latest edition of Pig World, the Mark White of the PVS, said PVS prescribing principles already include strict criteria around CIAs. He said use of colistin and 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins was already very low, although he suggested any further restrictions on fluoroquinolones could create problems.

To read Mark White’s forthright views on the antibiotic targets, click here 

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.