SALES OF antibiotics for use on food-producing animals dropped by 9% between 2017 and 2018, with overall sales of the highest priority critically important antibiotics (HP-CIAs) falling by 18% in the same period.

The latest UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance Report, published this week by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, noted that this hefty reduction cemented a four-year trend between 2014 and 2018 within which sales of antibiotics and HP-CIAs had dropped by 53% and 66% respectively.

This progress was welcomed by the British Veterinary Association, which nonetheless stressed that the issue of human and animal disease pathogens developing resistance to key antimicrobials was still a ‘huge concern’, despite clinical surveillance suggesting that most of the key veterinary bugs remained susceptible to authorised veterinary antibiotics, including some that have been authorised for many years. Some pathogens, such as E. coli in poultry, have even shown significant reductions to resistance.

BVA Junior vice president James Russell said: “We are pleased to see further reductions in antibiotic sales in the latest VARSS report, which is a testament to the hugely successful collaborative work being carried out by vets, farmers and the industry to steward responsible antibiotic use and champion greater disease prevention measures across each of the eight livestock sectors.

“It is particularly commendable to note that sales of antibiotics in food producing animals have fallen by an impressive 53% between 2014 and 2018,” said Mr Russell. “Antimicrobial resistance remains a huge concern for vets, which is why we must maintain this momentum in the face of the ongoing global threat it poses to the health of animals, humans and the environment.

“While it is vital that we continue to build upon these achievements through evidence-based, sector-specific targets to further refine, reduce or replace antibiotic use, a large part of the future changes will involve promoting high animal health and welfare through disease prevention strategies, such as increasing uptake in vaccines,” he said. “Ongoing improvements in veterinary-led health planning on farms will also help to further lower antibiotic use by reducing the incidence of endemic diseases.”

The BVA said it was committed to providing ‘continued leadership’ on the issue and would continue working with its specialist divisions – including the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture alliance (RUMA) – and other key stakeholders to build upon what had already been achieved.

The VARSS report came as the BVA prepared to launch its ‘One Health in Action’ report on November 1. This will highlight ‘real-world’ case studies to illustrate collaborative work of professionals from across the UK veterinary and medical professions and animal welfare and environmental sectors to tackle important issues such as antimicrobial resistance, climate change and mental health and wellness.

BVA’s policy on the responsible use of antimicrobials in food producing animals is available at: