What's new ? - 2018

What's new ? - 2018

Comparison of UK and US antibiotic use by farm-animal species

22 February, 2018

Up until recently, very little data was available on farm use of medically important antibiotics in different animal species in both the UK and the US. This was due to the fact that the regulatory bodies only collect data on the sales of veterinary antibiotic products from the pharmaceutical companies, and many of these products are licensed for use in more than one animal species. However, in the past three months, a large amount of new information on antibiotic use in different livestock species has become available, although the data is still incomplete. This information has largely been published by the regulatory bodies, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) in the UK and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US. In the UK, the information has been based on collections by the British Poultry Council and the National Pig Association of actual usage data, and on a large survey of cattle farms. Very recently published information by some supermarkets supplements this data. In the US, the data has been based on pharmaceutical-industry estimates of the species breakdown of their sales, which they must now provide to the FDA. We have compiled this information to compare these estimates of antibiotic use in different livestock species in both the UK and the US. In order to make the data comparable, we have taken into account the size of the different livestock populations, and have used the European Medicine Agency’s (EMA) “Population Correction Unit” (PCU) as the livestock unit to do this. Our findings show that in terms of mg of active ingredient of antibiotic per tonne of livestock unit (PCU):
- use in US pigs is about twice as high as use in UK pigs
- use in US chickens is about 3 times as high as use in UK chickens
- use in US turkeys is about 5 times as high as use in UK turkeys
- use in US cattle use is about 9-16 times as high as use in UK cattle
- use in all food animals in the US is about 5 times as high as use in the UK.
Table 1 Estimates of antibiotic use in different livestock species in the UK and the US, in terms of mg of active ingredient of antibiotic per kg of Population Correction Unit (mg/kg)

                 UK                             USA                  US/UK ratio                 
Pigs 183 349 1.9
Chickens 17 58 3.4
Turkeys 86 479 5.5
Cattle 15-25 237 9-16
All food animals 45 221 4.9
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