UK cuts animal antibiotic use by 10%

A new report from the UK’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) shows that the sale of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals fell by 10 percent, from 62 to 56 mg/kg, between 2014 and 2015.

A new report from the UK’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) shows that the sale of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals fell by 10 percent, from 62 to 56 mg/kg, between 2014 and 2015. 

The four-year low puts the UK on track to meet targets — to reach a 50mg/kg by 2018 — designed to tackle antibiotic resistance, which is seen as a growing threat to human health.

For private equity investors, the pressure to decrease a reliance on antibiotics to detect disease in animals could fuel opportunities to invest in technologies and medicines aimed at early detection. 

One company investing in such technologies is Mastiline, which secured funding earlier this year that will help uncover mastitis infections in udders through early detection sensor technology.

Studies long ago confirmed that antibiotic-resistant microorganisms are transmitted between animals and humans, and the risks are thought to be growing.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could be responsible for 10 million deaths per year and cost the global economy $100 trillion by 2050, according to the UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).

Defra minister for rural affairs and biosecurity, Lord Gardiner, in a statement called antibiotic resistance “the biggest threat to modern medicine”, adding that “our farmers and vets are setting an excellent example for others around the world to follow”.

But despite the reductions, populations of resistant bacteria monitored by the VMD appear static, showing that a multi-faceted approach rather than a simple reduction in use is needed, said RUMA secretary general John FitzGerald, in a separate statement.

“Resistance levels in Salmonella isolates, notable to critically important antibiotics, from cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry remain low and resistance demonstrated by cattle mastitis pathogens is broadly similar to previous years,” the statement read.

“Furthermore, what appears to be an increase in pig samples testing positive for the ESBL E. coli bacteria that transfer resistance is actually due to a change in testing methodology, with parallel testing using the previous method showing little change from two years ago when it was last the turn of the pig sector to be tested.”