Archive for the ‘RUMA News’ Category

2016 Antibiotic Stewardship Report: poultry meat sector

Following the publishing of its 2016 Antibiotic Stewardship Report today, RUMA welcomes the incredible progress made by the poultry meat sector since it first set up its programme in 2011. Their sustainable use approach has made possible a reduction of 71% in weight of antibiotics used between 2012 and 2016, and shows what is achievable with determination and courage.

While the integrated nature of the poultry meat sector compared with other sectors has helped it gain consensus and action at farm level, it nonetheless continues to be a source of inspiration and advice for many other sectors within RUMA which have more segregated or complex supply chains. These are also now on their own paths to reductions through similar stewardship programmes.

The reductions outlined within the poultry meat sector will also undoubtedly help the whole UK farming industry on its path towards achieving the Government target of average cross-sector antibiotics use of 50mg/PCU by 2018. However, this will not lessen each sector’s focus on reduction, refinement or replacement of antibiotics with their own sector-specific targets due to be released at RUMA’s conference on 27 October.

RUMA Task Force confirms targets timetable

The RUMA Targets Task Force has announced its timetable for publishing sector-specific targets relating to antibiotic use later this year.

The Task Force was set up by RUMA, the agricultural and food industry alliance which promotes responsible use of medicines in farm animals, in December 2016 to identify meaningful objectives to reduce, refine or replace antibiotic use in all UK livestock sectors.

Having held a series of workshops over winter and spring, Task Force members are currently consulting with specialists and organisations within their sectors to finalise draft proposals by the end of June.

The regulator, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), will provide initial feedback on the proposals to confirm whether they would meet Government expectations for targets, timescales and rationale. It will also be important to have mechanisms in place to ensure animal health and welfare is not impacted by these measures, as set out in the Government’s response to the O’Neill report.

Once these responses have been received, each livestock sector has until the end of September to finalise their objectives, which will be compiled into a report for release at the RUMA conference on 27 October.

The Targets Task Force was originally proposed by RUMA after the O’Neill Review on Antimicrobial Resistance’s final report was published in May 20161.

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones explains that while the UK Government response2 to the O’Neill report challenged UK agriculture to reduce average antibiotic use by around 20% to 50mg/kg by 2018 (compared with the 2014 usage figures of 62 mg/kg), Government wants the industry to develop its own sector-specific targets, asking for these to be confirmed by the end of 2017.

“The challenge in every sector is very different according to structure, number of producers and the way it engages with the market,” says Mr Jones. “Some have already made significant strides in reducing and refining use, others have further to go. But the Government is clear that every sector is expected to act and have a set of measureable objectives in place by the end of the year.

“There are encouraging signs of engagement and progress. Antibiotic sales data for food producing animals showed a 10% reduction between 2014 and 20153, and the pig sector has recently announced a halving of in-feed antibiotics for young pigs and a 70% reduction in colistin use. We hope further reductions and refinements in other sectors will be evident when the 2016 sales data are released by the VMD later in the year.

“Despite this, we all understand the message that we must further reduce antibiotic use where it’s possible to do so without impacting animal welfare.”

Mr Jones says the benefit of the Targets Task Force became apparent at the very first meeting in the sharing of information, ideas and motivation. “We are confident that by learning and getting inspiration from each other across different sectors, we can bring about the step change needed.”

Tickets for the RUMA conference are now available on Eventbrite and the event programme will be confirmed shortly.


1] The O’Neill report: Tackling Drug-Resistant Infections Globally can be downloaded here
2] Antimicrobial resistance review: Government response.
3] VARSS Report (2016). UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance 2015.

Scientific breakthrough in farming could alleviate human antibiotics time bomb

The discovery of an organism able to target harmful bacteria and leave ‘good’ bacteria intact in pigs could be poised to drive a long term change in how people with drug-resistant infections are treated.

The ground-breaking agricultural research, which was carried out by Professor Martha Clokie and her team at the University of Leicester and funded by farmers through levy body AHDB Pork, isolated 20 bacteriophages – or bacterial viruses – that target 72 strains of potentially drug-resistant bacteria that can cause gut problems in pigs.

The discovery suggests that bacteriophages could accompany or replace antibiotics used to treat bacterial disease across all types of livestock, helping safeguard the future of some drugs of ‘last resort’ in human medicine that the farming industry has already voluntarily restricted.

The breakthrough could also help speed the development of similar applications in human medicine, addressing the rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria that a report1 last year suggested could be killing as many as 10 million people a year by 2050 through drug-resistant infections.

The development has been welcomed by RUMA, the agricultural and food industry alliance which promotes responsible use of medicines in farm animals.

RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald says: “The issue of antibiotic resistance is one shared by human and animal medicine, and a number of initiatives across medical and veterinary sciences are attempting to understand and reduce the spread of resistance genes in bacteria.

“Phage technology is in fact fairly old, but its development stalled because antibiotics were – until recently – very effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria. However, the build-up of resistance has created new opportunities for phage technology; a discovery such as this could be a real game-changer, not just helping the farming industry to steward antibiotics more effectively but potentially speeding up the development of human medical applications.”

Dr Charlotte Evans, Technical Senior Manager with AHDB Pork, explains bacteriophages are found everywhere in the environment, in humans and animals, so they can be regarded as a ‘natural’ defence.

She says: “There’s still a long way to go in terms of trials and licensing but we are very pleased this research, which was started two years ago, has already yielded such promising results.

“Bacteriophage treatment is about using increased volumes of something that is already present to target harmful bacteria. Research suggests they do not harm other organisms because the relevant receptor is not present.”

She adds that the next step is to determine whether bacteriophages could be applied via spray, injection or vaccination, or by adding to feed or water.

Around 37% of the UK’s antibiotics are currently used for treating disease in farm animals. The latest sales data shows there was a 10% fall in sales of antibiotic products into farming between 2014 and 2015.


[1] O’Neill Review on Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling Drug-Resistant Infections Globally. May 2016

Colistin use in pig sector falls by over 70%

New figures collated by the British pig industry and released by RUMA indicate use of Colistin, an antibiotic of last resort which treats a number of bacterial infections in both humans and animals, fell significantly in the sector during 2016.

The latest available UK sales data from 2015 shows Colistin sales into veterinary medicines were already low at around one tenth of the EU recommended limit. But preliminary analysis of data received via the new pig e-Medicines Book (e-MB), which was developed and launched by AHDB Pork last year and has now collected the 2015 and 2016 ‘medical’ records of more than two-thirds of the national herd, suggests that use of Colistin in pigs decreased more than 70% in 2016.

Mandy Nevel from AHDB Pork says the news is important as Colistin use in humans has increased in recent years for the treatment of specific serious bacterial infections that are resistant to other antibiotics.

“This is why the European Medicines Agency has classified Colistin as a highest priority ‘Critically Important Antibiotic’ for the treatment of a number of human bacterial conditions, despite it being a very old drug,” she explains.

“But crucially, the regulators have retained access for animal use because it also has importance as a last-resort drug to safeguard welfare in livestock. It’s very positive to see the pig sector – vets and farmers together – responding to the responsibility of having continued access to this drug as a last resort and reducing use where possible.”

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones has welcomed the news and says the findings mean that once 2016 sales data are released, the UK could be one of the five lowest users of Colistin in Europe.

He says: “We were looking for significant reductions in 2016 following the best practice guidelines issued by the Pig Veterinary Society at the end of 2015, but this has exceeded our hopes.

“It also follows hot on the heels of the announcement in February that prescribed antibiotics administered in feed for young pigs have halved, with more than two thirds of that reduction taking place in 2016.

“This shows the pig industry is really engaging with this issue and making some very strong progress in reducing, refining and replacing antibiotics use.”

More e-MB data will be made public later this year in line with the publication of sector-specific targets at RUMA’s conference in association with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate on 27 October.

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