5% fall in use of antibiotics on pig farms
The amount of antibiotic medications prescribed to treat pigs on UK farms fell by 5% in 2020, industry figures have revealed.
However, a class of antibiotics critically important for human health more than doubled in use on UK pig farms between 2015 and 2019.
Farmers have been cutting back on antibiotic use in recent years, with the amount prescribed to treat pigs down 62% since 2015.
However, the Guardian revealed there has been an increase over the same period in the use of aminoglycosides, a class of drugs that includes gentamicin, which is used in humans to treat meningitis and infections of the blood and abdomen.
Aminoglycosides are deemed “critically important” to human health by the World Health Organization, but are used on pig farms combat scour and other illnesses.
Data from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board showed use of aminoglycosides in pigs increased from 2.6mg a kilogram of body weight in 2015 to 5.9mg in 2019.
However, research revealed that it is likely linked to other antibiotics being phased out and changes on farms in preparation for an EU-wide ban on the use of zinc oxide as a trace element added to feed.
Simon Doherty, a past president of the British Veterinary Association, told the Guardian: “In the short term, we might have to accept that part of the refinement in a move away from zinc oxide or from colistin is that there will be an increase in the use of, for example, aminoglycosides.”
Hailing the overall reduction in antibiotic use, AHDB pork sector strategy director Angela Christison said: “The industry understands how important responsible antibiotic use is and that is why there are tough targets and we work together towards them.
“This continued improvement, despite disruption to pig flow during the pandemic, is a credit to collaboration between producers, vets and the industry as a whole.”
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