European Antibiotic Awareness Day 18.11.2008 Antibiotics are to be used responsibly for the treatment of animals also
Antibiotics are also used for the treatment of animals
The National Agency for Medicines has monitored the consumption of antibiotics used for the treatment of animals since 1995. The amount of veterinary antibiotics used in Finland decreased at the end of the 1990s. The reduced consumption was most of all brought about by eradicating of infectious diseases and by improvements to the health care of production animals. Since 2003, however, the total consumption has increased by more than 15%.
Along with Sweden and Norway, Finland belongs to the group of countries where the narrow-spectrum antibiotic, penicillin, is the most widely used antibiotic. Animals elsewhere in Europe, especially pigs, are given mainly broad-spectrum tetracycline.
Narrow-spectrum antibiotics induce less resistance to antibiotics than broad-spectrum antibiotics. Narrow-spectrum antibiotics affect the body’s normal microbiota, especially that of the intestinal tract. Mass medication of animals is considerably more common in elsewhere Europe than in the Nordic countries. In Great Britain, for example, 90% of the antibiotics are administered as mass medication, while the share in Finland is 20%.
Antibiotic resistance status has been good in Finland
The antibiotic resistance status of bacteria isolated from animals has mainly been good in Finland when compared internationally.
Zoonotic bacteria, for example salmonella and campylobacter, cause diseases in both animals and humans. In Finland salmonella is only rarely found in production animals or food of animal origin. The studied strains have generally been very sensitive to antibiotics. Even campylobacter is found to have very little resistance when compared internationally. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has so far been found in animals in isolated cases and in two epidemics at a horse hospital.
However, the antibiotic resistance among some animal pathogenic bacteria is of concern. For example the bacteria Staphylococcus (pseud)intermedius found in dogs have been resistant to several antibiotics for more than ten years. Pets and horses have also been found to have bacteria that produce broad-spectrum Beta-lactamase ESBL.
Keeping antibiotics effective is a challenge also for veterinary medicine
We know today that the problems caused by resistant bacteria can not be overcome by developing new drugs. New drugs should possess new mechanisms of action, and the probability of discovering such medicinal substances is becoming extremely remote. The only effective means will be by the prudent use of antimicrobials and by preventing infections, especially by improving the environmental conditions and by vaccinations.
If a bacterium is resistant to many antibiotics, it can be difficult to find an efficient therapy. Antibiotics should be used specifically while taking into consideration the risks of resistance developing. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry issued the first recommendations for the use of antibiotics against the most significant infectious diseases in animals as early as in 1966. The recommendations are based on the disease and resistance status in Finland. A second update of the recommendations is currently underway, and Evira will give out the new recommendations in January 2009.
European Antibiotic Awareness Day:
Consumption of antimicrobials used by animals:
For more information please contact:
Senior Officer Henriette Helin-Soilevaara, Evira, tel. 020 77 24224, use of antibiotics for animals, recommendations for antimicrobials
Veterinary Officer Katariina Kivilahti-Mäntylä, National Agency for Medicines, tel. 09 47334 285, consumption figures for veterinary medicinal products
Senior Researcher Anna-Liisa Myllyniemi, Evira, tel. 020 77 24451, resistance status of bacteria isolated from animals