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Winter 2022/2023

Welcome to our winter newsletter -
giving you news and updates on farm antibiotic issues

Our news

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week,  November 2022

Observed on 18–24 November each year, World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) has as its slogan “Antimicrobials: Handle with Care”, highlighting that antimicrobial medicines, such as antibiotics, are a precious resource and should be used prudently.

The 2022 theme announced by The Quadripartite organisations - the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH, founded as OIE) announced the theme of WAAW 2022 as “Preventing antimicrobial resistance together” which called for cross-sectoral collaboration to preserve the efficacy of these important medicines.

As the World Health Organization stated: "To curb AMR effectively, all sectors must use antimicrobials prudently and adopt other preventive measures. The following actions can help reduce the need for antimicrobials and minimize the emergence of AMR:

  • strengthen infection prevention and control in health facilities, farms and food industry premises;
  • improve surveillance of antimicrobial-resistant infections;
  • ensure access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and vaccines;
  • only use antimicrobials when prescribed by a certified health professional and only give antibiotics to animals under veterinary supervision;
  • implement best practices in food and agricultural production;
  • ensure proper waste and sanitation management"

The work of the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics for WAAW 2022 

WAAW is a busy time for Alliance and 2022 was no exception. This year, our key workstreams included the release of a report examining the environmental spread of antibiotic resistance from livestock farms and a parliamentary event to ensure UK policy makers are aware of, and focused on, the important issue of antibiotic resistance and the need to reduce antibiotic use in farming and improve farm-animal health and welfare.


Water, cattle slurry and chicken litter sampling project

There is an increasing global interest in the environmental issues surrounding on farm antibiotic use. This is an under researched area and it is difficult to get data. Working with World Animal Protection and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, we conducted water and soil sampling near UK farm units and released our findings in WAAW.

 

Results

Drought conditiFree photos of Biologyons impacted on sampling but the report certainly highlighted the need for more research in this area. 

In total, 44% of E. coli and 66% of S. aureus bacteria isolated during testin
g were resistant to antibiotics. Seven strains of E. coli and five strains of S. aureus were found with resistance to highest-priority critically important antibiotics. E. coli and S. aureus are the two pathogens causing the most deaths worldwide that are associated with antibiotic resistance.

The sulphonamide resistance gene Sul(1) was found in all cattle slurry and chicken litter samples tested, and was found in greater numbers downstream than upstream of some factory farms. This suggests that factory farms are contributing to the environmental spread of resistance to this sulphonamide antibiotics, which are highly important in human medicine.

Residues of coccidiostat antimicrobials, which are very widely used in chicken farming, were found downstream of a chicken factory farm in sediment. One of the chemicals found is highly persistent in soil and the European Food Safety Authority says it may be harmful to terrestrial organisms.

 

Coverage 


The report received a really good breadth of media coverage. This included:


Read the full report with the research results here.













Parliamentary event 
 

Again with World Animal Protection, we held a UK Parliamentary event on the 23rd of November to raise awareness of the general issues of antibiotic resistance and on farm use, as well as the findings of the report. Labour MP Virendra Sharma hosted the event and 18 MPs attended together with some peers and assistants. It was good to have the Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) speaking. We had some very useful conversations with the MPs who were rightly concerned about the issues we were raising.  


Other media coverage 
 

In addition to the coverage on the report, Cóilín Nunan, our scientific advisor, was interviewed on the issue of antibiotic resistance generally, for example for this article  World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2022: The Antibiotic Footprint of Farming (news-medical.net). News Medical is a website which receives 2 million visitors per week.  

National Action Plan Consultation 

The UK Government is developing the next 5-year national action plan on antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The plan will run from 2024 until 2029. The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics will be submitting a response to the consultation and should you want to do the same, the closing date is January 20th 2023.

Quadripartite Consultation 

Cóilín was recently invited to participate in a quadripartite telephone consultation, predominantly on stopping the misuse of Over The Counter (OTC) antibiotics for animals. However, he and others were able to feed in comments about the need to address prophylactic overuse, improve animal welfare, tighten up residue testing and collect data by farm system.

The consultation results will be incorporated into plans for a summit, provisionally scheduled for March 2023.

New members

We would like to welcome 3 new members to the Alliance, bringing our total number of members to 68.
 

cropped-ohia_logo__15_pngThe One Health in Action initiative conducts action-based advocacy programs aimed at promoting the design and operationalization of One Heath frameworks for the control of zoonotic diseases, prevention of antimicrobial resistance and development of sustainable ecosystems. 
One Health in Action Initiative



 

thumbnail_pbhptransparentweb2018pngPlant-based health professionals UK provides education and advocacy on whole food plant-based nutrition for the prevention and treatment of chronic disease, as well as for supporting planetary health. As a healthcare-led organisation of 1000 members PBHP is concerned by their first hand experience of the challenges posed by rising levels of antibiotic resistance and believe that the issue of on farm use must be addressed urgently.   

Plant Based Health Professionals UK

 

humane-being_my-humane-being-corrected-in-cdrpngHumane Being campaigns to protect the planet, animals and people and encourage more compassionate lifestyles. Humane Being volunteers have lodged a legal challenge as part of their Scrap Factory Farming campaign where they claim the UK Government is failing to protect people from the health risks linked to pandemics, antibiotic resistance and the climate crisis. Our team member Jane, runs Humane Being outside of work and in a voluntary capacity.  Humane Being

Interview with the experts -  Catalina López Salazar
 
We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Catalina López Salazar, who works at the Aquatic Life Institute and is a veterinarian, and current Director of the Aquatic Animal Alliance. Catalina leads a coalition of 100 organisations around the world that collaborate on improving the lives of aquatic animals in the food system through science based advocacy with corporations, governments and international bodies.
For more information and to follow Catalina's important work:

Website: Aquatic Life Institute (ali.fish)
Twitter
LinkedIn

 
In the pipeline
Projects coming up
 
In 2023, we will be continuing our work on improving legislation, enhanced data availability by farming system, trade considerations regarding antibiotic use and getting support for farming systems that provide better husbandry and less antibiotics. We will be building on our work on antimicrobial resistance in the environment and work with international partners. In addition, we will continue to look at corporate policies - for example supermarkets, catering companies and restaurants.
Other news
Government plans to introduce legislation
 
In response to a written question submitted by Conservative MP Henry Smith,  Mark  Spencer The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "The UK Government and Devolved Administrations remain committed to reducing unnecessary use of antibiotics in animals.

Over the past year the Veterinary Medicines Directorate has engaged in a comprehensive dialogue with stakeholders about a broad range of changes that we propose to the Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2013 as they apply in Great Britain. These changes will help us to improve the operating environment for industry, improve prescription and supply of veterinary medicines and ensure safe and effective medicines continue to be available, including by reducing the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance.

As required by the Medicines and Medical Devices Act 2021, we are preparing to publish a consultation paper setting out our proposals for changes to the Regulations. This will provide the opportunity for all affected stakeholders to express their views on the proposed changes. Following the mandatory consultation period, we anticipate laying new legislation in 2023".

At the Alliance, we are hoping the consultation and legislation do indeed happen in 2023 as they have been promised for some time!

VARSS 

In November 2022, the latest UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance Report UK-VARSS 2021 and a highlights report were was published. Sales of veterinary antibiotics for use in food-producing animals, adjusted for animal population, were 28.3 mg/kg; a 6% decrease since 2020 and an overall 55% decrease since 2014. This represents the lowest sales to date. Sales of Highest Priority Critically Important Antibiotics (HP-CIAs) in food-producing animals account for 0.4% of total sales and there has been an 18% decrease since 2020. Use by species is shown in this infographic.


We are pleased to see the overall decline in use of antibiotics in all species, except salmon and turkey, which have seen a worrying increase. Between 2020 and 2021, antibiotic use in the turkey sector increased by 16.8 mg/kg to 42.6 mg/kg, which is similar to levels that were seen in 2019. In data collected by Salmon Scotland representing 100% of the industry, 8.9 tonnes of antibiotic active ingredient were used in 2021, representing 43.1 mg/kg, which is 13.8 mg/kg higher than the use reported in 2020, and more than two times (27.0 mg/kg) higher than when data was first published in 2017. Oxytetracycline remains the most used antibiotic class in salmon (accounting for 86% of total use in 2021).  

Also of concern is the increasing use of the fluorquinolone antibiotics in chickens. The US banned fluoroquinolone use in poultry in 2005, because of clear evidence that it led to resistance in human Campylobacter infections. Unfortunately the UK has refused to implement a similar ban. However, in 2016 the British Poultry Council announced that it had voluntarily stopped using these antibiotics in chickens, but now use has restarted, and increased in 2021 compared with 2020. This shows the dangers of relying solely on voluntary action, which can always be reversed.

Despite the reductions made by the pig industry, use per pig remains 5 times higher than in Sweden & 2 times higher as in Denmark & Netherlands.


FAO report on UK farm antibiotic reductions

UK Farmers have made significant reductions in the use of antibiotics and this has been recognised in the Food and Agriculture Organisation's 2022 publication Tackling antimicrobial use and resistance in food-producing animals.


The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics is pleased to see this downward trend, however this is a significant area medically for humans, financially and from the perspective of the conditions for the farmed animals - so it is important we focus on what can still be done, as well as the successes. Further improvements can be made via better husbandry farming methods, reducing the consumption of animal products, more detailed data collection by farm type and by a drive to reduce group treatments in favour of individual ones. 



Call for improvements to pig husbandry to reduce the need for antibiotics


This Pig Progress article presents a good explanation of the need for a One Health approach. The authors say "it is important to identify the main on-farm stressors in intensive swine production systems, to evaluate their negative impacts on pig health and welfare, and to find strategies to assess how welfare and health improvement of pigs contribute to antibiotic reduction in swine industry. Animal welfare and environmental issues have been major concerns in the past decades. According to the World Organization for Animal Health “an animal experiences good welfare if it is healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, is not suffering from unpleasant states, such as pain, fear, and distress, and is able to express behaviours that are important for its physical and mental state". However, high stocking densities in intensive swine production systems predispose pigs to stressors, environmental pathogens, and the spread of respiratory and enteric diseases. As a result, it is estimated that by 2030 the use of antibiotics on farms increases by 11.5%".

The article draws from a research paper published earlier this year entitled Linking Animal Welfare and Antibiotic Use in Pig Farming—A Review which concludes "Farmers are seen as the ultimate people responsible for changing the current AMU [antimicrobial use]. A simplistic and polarised portrait of why pig farmers use antibiotics is that of a neglectful or a protective individual of the welfare of their animals. Today, many farmers report feeling/being powerless to think differently, and if they do, act differently, quoting that economic constraints, production standards or technical advice do not leave room for change. Just as the pigs in their farms, many farmers are surviving the system. Thus, investments needed for any changes must be supported by the industry, consumers, and governments. A call for pig farmers to rationally reduce AMU will succeed or fail pending such external support and structural changes in the network that currently uses antibiotics as a structural material for production, at local, national, and international levels. This means that individual behaviour changes are not enough nor sustainable in the long run. Ultimately, we urgently call for a re-centring of the industry objectives (inclusive of all stakeholders) into the intrinsic values of life (a life worth living) and nature (a place worth living) for all living creatures. The solutions demand leaving behind the conception that feeding the world means intensifying animal production, towards a genuinely sustainable approach where keeping our world means slowing down production".


ESVAC and Group treatments 


The recently published European Medicines Agency 12th ESVAC report shows that overall aggregated sales of antibiotic Veterinary Medicinal Products (VMPs) for all 31 countries reporting data in 2021 were 84.4 mg/PCU. This represents a 4.9% decrease compared to 2020. Significant reductions are now taking place in many countries. The UK is the 8th lowest user, per livestock unit, out of 31 countries.

Large differences in antibiotic use are found between countries. The lowest users included Norway (2 mg/kg), Iceland (3.6 mg/kg), Sweden (10.9 mg/kg) and Finland (17 mg/kg), whereas the highest users were Cyprus (296.5 mg/kg), Poland (175.5 mg/kg), Italy (173.5 mg/kg), Spain (157.2 mg/kg) and Portugal (149.9 mg/kg).
It is notable in the four lowest using countries, group treatments only account for between 6% and 31% of overall farm antibiotic use, whereas in the five highest-using countries group treatments account for over 90% of their antibiotic use. These large differences in group treatments are unsurprising, since excessively high levels of group treatments tend to suggest that use is not particularly focused on sick animals and is more routine.
Overall, group treatments account for 86.3% of all farm antibiotic use in the 31 countries and for 75.2% in the UK. These figures suggest that large reductions in farm antibiotic use are still achievable in the UK and most of Europe.


References: ESVAC country report.  The UK country report 



FDA report 

 

The latest US FDA antibiotic sales data report has been published. The report shows that there is no significant reduction in on farm antibiotic use (down by 0.2%), so the US use per PCU is now about 6 times higher than the UK, at around 170 mg/kg. Given the need for global action to reduce on farm use of antibiotics, this is a worrying failure of a country farming a large number of animals to address the mainly intensive farming methods and widespread routine, preventative use of antibiotics.




  EFSA concerns over AMR spread via live transport 
 

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)  published a scientific opinion  assessing the risk of spread of AMR among poultry, pigs and cattle during transport between farms or to slaughterhouses. EFSA concluded that strategies that would reduce the probability of AMR transmission, for all animal categories include minimising the duration of transport, proper cleaning and disinfection, appropriate transport planning, improving animal health and welfare and/or biosecurity immediately prior to and during transport, ensuring the thermal comfort of the animals and animal segregation.



Potato contamination by Clostridium difficile


A scientific study has found that European potatoes are commonly contaminated by Clostridium difficile. The scientists say their finding could have public health relevance. The most commonly found strain of C. difficile was ribotype 078, which is prevalent in farm animals, mainly pigs, on a global scale. The presence of C. difficile is probably partly due to the use of farm-animal manure. C. difficile has also previously been found in meat and in some other vegetables.
An earlier genetic scientific study found that the intensive use of tetracycline antibiotics in farm animals was linked with the emergence and spread of C. difficile ribotype 078. Ribotype 078 is now a major strain causing infections in humans.

The team at the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics
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jtredgett@saveourantibiotics.eu
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The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics is an alliance of health, medical, civil society and animal welfare groups campaigning to stop the overuse of antibiotics in animal farming. It was founded by Compassion in World Farming, the Soil Association and Sustain in 2009. The Alliance is completely free to join. Our vision is a world in which human and animal health and well-being are protected by food and farming systems that do not rely on routine antibiotic use. 
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