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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Antimicrobial resistance in animal health: animal exposure to antimicrobials continued to decline in 2016

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News of 05/10/2017

Today ANSES is publishing the results of its "Annual monitoring of sales of veterinary medicinal products containing antimicrobials in France for 2016", a survey carried out by the French Agency for Veterinary Medicinal Products. In 2016, 530 tonnes of antimicrobials were used in France. Over the last five years, therefore, overall animal exposure to antimicrobials has decreased by 36.6%. The use of critical antimicrobials has also declined: by 81.3% for exposure to newer-generation cephalosporins, and by 74.9% for exposure to fluoroquinolones, all species combined, compared to 2013. With regard to exposure to colistin, which has been subject to special surveillance, a decrease of 40.3% was observed in 2016 compared to the years 2014-2015. These positive results testify to the effective commitment of all the stakeholders, who nonetheless need to keep up the pressure and continue their efforts to preserve the effectiveness of antimicrobials in animals and humans.

Antimicrobial resistance is a major public health issue concerning both human and veterinary medicine. In France, many initiatives to promote responsible use of antimicrobials have been undertaken: national EcoAntibio 2017 plan, Act on the future of agriculture, food and forestry, raising awareness in many sectors on best practices and the prudent use of antimicrobials, European Antibiotic Awareness Day, etc.

Monitoring of sales of antimicrobials is one of the key sources of information used to assess and manage the risks associated with antimicrobial resistance. Each year, the French Agency for Veterinary Medicinal Products conducts a survey on sales of veterinary antimicrobials.


Overall animal exposure continues to decline

Over the past few years, a downward trend has been observed in the use of antimicrobials in veterinary medicine. This was confirmed in 2016: 530 tonnes of antimicrobials were sold, a decrease of 41.8% compared to 2011, the year the EcoAntibio 2017 plan was launched.

Over the last five years, overall animal exposure to antimicrobials has decreased by 36.6%. This fall has been observed for all species compared to 2011 (cattle: -24.3%, pigs: -41.5%, poultry: -42.8%, rabbits: -37.6%, cats and dogs: -19.4%).


A large decrease in exposure to critical antimicrobials

Third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones are regarded as particularly important in human medicine because they are sometimes the last resort for the treatment of certain infectious diseases in humans.

A fall in the use of these two classes of antimicrobials has been observed since 2013, and was confirmed in 2016. Exposure to newer-generation cephalosporins actually decreased by 81.3% in 2016 compared to 2013, and exposure to fluoroquinolones by 74.9%, all species combined.


Changes in exposure to colistin

An article published in November 2015 describing the first plasmid-mediated mechanism of resistance to colistin led to the establishment of reinforced surveillance for this antimicrobial. After an increase in colistin exposure up to 2007, it then remained relatively stable between 2008 and 2011, and has declined over the last five years: in 2016, a 55.1% decrease in exposure was observed compared to 2011.

In its October 2016 report on colistin, ANSES recommended cutting its use by 50%. This recommendation was repeated in the second EcoAntibio plan (Action 12), which aims to reduce colistin exposure in the cattle, pig and poultry sectors by 50% in five years, taking the average exposure in the years 2014-2015 as a reference. Between 2014-15 and 2016, exposure to colistin had already decreased for cattle (-43.4%), pigs (-51.6%) and poultry (-26.7%).

The data of the French surveillance network for antimicrobial resistance in pathogenic bacteria of animal origin (Resapath), which is coordinated by ANSES's Lyon and Ploufragan-Plouzané laboratories, will help determine whether the decrease in the use of all classes of antimicrobials is accompanied this year by a decrease in antimicrobial resistance phenomena.


Keep up the pressure for prudent and responsible use of antimicrobials in veterinary medicine

The decline in antimicrobial use in veterinary medicine observed in recent years confirms the positive impact of the various measures taken regarding the prudent use of antimicrobials. These positive results testify to the effective commitment of all the stakeholders in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

The various actions undertaken by farmers and veterinarians (limiting the use of cephalosporins in the pig sector, training modules for farmers, best practice guides, interprofessional charters, regulatory measures, etc.), accompanied by the EcoAntibio 2017 plan, have helped achieve the various objectives.

It is nonetheless important to keep up the pressure to ensure that this progress continues, in order to preserve the therapeutic effectiveness of antimicrobials, in both veterinary and human medicine.