Carbapenems not used in Livestock

The recently announced increase in carbapenem resistance in humans led to an Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics inspired article in The Independent on 12 March 2014 calling for a ban on carbapenem use in agriculture.

The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) would like to point out that

  • there are no carbapenem antibiotic products authorised for use in animals and
  • there is no evidence of carbapenem use in livestock under the prescribing cascade (often referred to as off-label use).

With no carbapenem use in livestock, this means that the resistance reported in humans has come from the use of carbapenems in human medicine.

RUMA Secretary General, John FitzGerald, said antibiotics are key medicines in both human and animal health and they should be used responsibly. The carbapenem resistance reported in the UK and recent research which shows that resistant bacteria from humans and animals are genetically different strengthen the UK Government’s and RUMA’s view that human use of antibiotics is the prime source of antibiotic resistance in humans.

Once again, RUMA is disappointed that the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics continues to use an important one-health issue like antibiotic resistance to attack conventional farming. Indeed, this misinformation and unnecessary scaremongering only serves to confuse the issue. It is essential that antibiotics that are necessary to maintain animal health and welfare remain available for veterinary use. The best way to tackle antibiotic resistance is for all involved in the use of antibiotics in humans and animals to work together.


  1. The Independent article can be found at
  2. Carbapenems are a class of antibiotics where only medicines for human use have been authorised. There are no antibiotic products for animal use that contain carbapenems.
  3. The prescribing cascade is a decision tree set out in EC legislation to allow veterinary surgeons to use other medicines where there is no product authorised for the species and/or disease that is being treated. The cascade recognises the lack of authorised veterinary medicines available to treat the wide range of animal species and disease. There is no evidence of any use of carbapenems in livestock under the cascade.
  4. The following research has shown that antibiotic resistant bacteria from humans and animals are genetically different.
    • Mather AE et al (2013) Distinguishable Epidemics of Multidrug Resistant Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 in different hosts. Science express published on line 12 September 2013
    • Wu G, Day MJ, Mafura MT, Nunez-Garcia J, Fenner JJ, et al. (2013) Comparative Analysis of ESBL-Positive Escherichia coli Isolates from Animals and Humans from the UK, The Netherlands and Germany. PLoS ONE 8(9): e75392. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075392
    • M de Been et al. ECMID 2013 Whole genome sequence-based epidemiological analysis of ESBL-producing Escherichia Coli’ .
  5. The Department of Health’s 5 year Strategy on Antimicrobial Resistance said ‘Increasing scientific evidence suggests that the clinical issues with antimicrobial resistance that we face in human medicine are primarily the result of antibiotic use in people, rather than antibiotics in animals’. (Point 2.1, page 8, Department of Health UK 5 Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2013 to 2018)
  6. RUMA is an alliance of 23 organisations representing every stage of the “farm to fork” process which aims to promote a co-ordinated and integrated approach to best practice in the use of medicines on farm. A full list of RUMA members is at paragraph 4 below. For further information contact RUMA Secretary General John FitzGerald (
  7. RUMA’s members are:
    • Agricultural Industries Confederation
    • Animal Health Distributors Association
    • Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority
    • BPEX and EBLEX
    • British Egg Industry Council
    • British Poultry Council
    • British Retail Consortium
    • British Veterinary Association
    • City and Guilds
    • DairyCo
    • Dairy UK
    • Game Farmers’ Association
    • LEAF
    • National Beef Association
    • National Farmers’ Union
    • National Office of Animal Health
    • National Pig Association
    • National Sheep Association
    • NFU Scotland
    • Red Tractor Assurance
    • Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers
    • RSPCA
    • Royal Pharmaceutical Society


    • Food Standards Agency
    • Veterinary Medicines Directorate