European Antibiotic Awareness Day 18.11.2011: Antibiotics must be used responsibly also for animals


<p>The annual European Antibiotic Awareness Day was marked on 28 November 2011 in all 27 member states. The aim of the Antibiotic Awareness Day is to remind about the prudent use of antibiotics in order to ensure that they remain effective also in the future. Infections caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria have been found to be on the increase everywhere in the European Community. European Antibiotic Awareness Day is organised by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) together with the European Commission, professional communities and associations in the member states as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO).</p>

ECDC mainly targets its messages to organisations and individuals responsible for human health care. It is important that resistance and consumption statistics also be monitored with animals, as animals are also treated with antibiotics and the antibiotics used for them are for the most part the same as those used for people. Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira monitors antibiotic resistance in production and companion animals and Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea the consumption of the antibiotics used. Antibiotic treatment of animals is in Finland guided by detailed care recommendations drawn up by an expert body on veterinary science. The recommendations are updated at regular intervals and maintained by Evira on its web site.

The use of narrow spectrum antibiotics causes less resistance than the use of broad spectrum antibiotics. Narrow spectrum penicillin is the most commonly used antibiotic in Finland, as it is also in Sweden and Norway. It accounts for about half of the total consumption. Elsewhere in Europe, broad spectrum tetracycline is most often used for animals. When comparing consumption apportioned to the number of animals, the consumption of antimicrobials is considerably lower in Finland than in many other European countries. For tetracyclines, for example, the difference in total consumption is more than tenfold. The antibiotic resistance status of bacteria isolated from animals has been favourable in Finland in international comparison. Zoonotic bacteria, such as salmonella and campylobacter, are in Finland only rarely found in production animals or domestic foods of animal origin and the strains that have been studied have in most cases been extremely susceptible to antibiotics. There is hardly any comparable data available on consumption figures and antibiotic resistance from outside Europe which is a real cause for concern.

The antibiotic resistance of some bacteria that are pathogenic particularly to companion and sport animals is developing in a disconcerting direction. For example, Staphylococcus pseudintermedius bacteria, which cause infections in dogs, have been resistant to several antibiotics for more than a decade. Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and bacteria that are resistant to all penicillin-group antibiotics, the so-called ESBL-bacteria, have also been occasionally found in Finland in companion and sport animals.

Human medicine and veterinary medicine share the challenge of retaining the effectiveness of antibiotics. The problems caused by resistant bacteria cannot be overcome just be developing new drugs. The good resistance status of production animals can be retained by means of disease prevention, particularly through improved environmental conditions and inoculations, as well as by continuing the responsible prudent and controlled use of antimicrobial medication. As far as companion and sport animals are concerned, we need more information about consumption figures and more efficient monitoring of resistance.

European Antibiotic Awareness Day
Consumption of veterinary antimicrobials in Finland
Consumption of veterinary antimicrobials in Europe
FINRES-Vet Programme
Evira's statement on retention of antibiotic effectiveness

For more information, please contact:
Henriette Helin-Soilevaara, Senior Officer, Evira, tel. +358 20 77 24224, use of antibiotics for animals, antimicrobial recommendations
Lasse Nuotio, Senior Researcher, Evira, tel. +358 20 77 24453, resistance status of bacteria isolated from animals
Katariina Kivilahti-Mäntylä, Veterinary Surgeon, Fimea, tel. +358 9 47334 285, consumption figures for veterinary medicines

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