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Weekly Overview: Denmark Sets the Pace for Antibiotic Reduction

10 November 2014

ANALYSIS - With a brand new action plan, the Danish Pig Research Centre is aiming to halve the use of a critical antibiotic, tetracycline, before the end of 2015, writes Jackie Linden.

At the same time, the current Yellow Card scheme will be modified to focus on use of ‘critical’ antibiotics.

Tetracycline is among the options available to treat outbreaks of disease, such as diarrhoea, in pigs. The medical profession has expressed concern that the use of tetracycline may increase resistance prevalence in general and, as a consequence, the Danish pig industry has voluntarily set itself an ambitious target of halving the use of tetracyclines in the coming year.

Claus Fertin, Director of the Danish Pig Research Centre, told the Herning Congress recently: “As pig producers account for a large proportion of antibiotic consumption in Denmark, it is quite natural that we should also take responsibility for the future. We are seeing how resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, are spreading in the human population, making the treatment of infections more difficult. It is, therefore, important that we take precautionary steps to pre-empt some of the potential risks of resistance spreading in the future. With this voluntary step, we are endeavouring to help ensure the availability of critical antibiotics in the future.”

Danish pig producers reduced consumption of antibiotics by 13 per cent between 2009 and 2013.

Dr Fertin continued: “Denmark is a role model in producing pig meat with low antibiotic usage. I would urge our Food Minister to seek to persuade other countries to reduce their use of tetracycline and other agents that are important in the treatment of humans. Denmark is not a desert island. The challenges posed by the spread of antibiotic resistance must be solved internationally.”

With the aim of reducing animal health risks, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is publishing a new 'Guide to Terrestrial Animal Health Surveillance' for national Veterinary Services and animal health experts. The Guide is intended to help them implement and evaluate the terrestrial animal disease surveillance systems in their countries.

The purpose of surveillance is to provide timely and relevant information, so that an early warning can be issued when a disease event occurs that is deemed sufficiently important by specialists, enabling risk managers to the necessary steps to limit the spread of the disease and minimise its impact.

Over the last week, new outbreaks of African swine fever have been reported in Lithuania, Latvia, Russia and Zambia, while the disease has been identified as the main constraint to the development of the pig industry in Uganda.

The number of outbreaks of porcine epidemic diarrhoea (PED) in the US continues to creep up but slowly. Market analyst, Steve Meyer, is optimistic about the prospects for the sector after a large survey of farms has revealed only a very few sow herds breaking to PED since June – far fewer than over the same period last year. The virus has been detected recently at a pig handling facility in Alberta, Canada.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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