Archive for the ‘RUMA News’ Category

Additional statement concerning the communication of new Government AMR strategy

RUMA has been forced to issue a clarification following a number of misleading media reports covering the launch of the Government’s new AMR strategy published yesterday (24 January), “Tackling antimicrobial resistance 2019–2024: The UK’s five-year national action plan”.

RUMA chairman Gwyn Jones says:

“While we welcome the strategy, I’m highly irritated that the impression the Defra/DoH joint press release appears to have given is that Government has ‘imposed’ further targets on the UK livestock industry, namely a reduction of 25% in antibiotic use.

“What the report itself makes clear is that a 25% reduction on 2016 sales (45mg/kg) is achievable through the extensive industry-developed and industry-led targets already in place. These are due to be delivered by 2020, and achieving these would mean reaching a sales level of 33-34mg/kg, a reduction of 25% on 2016 sales and an ambition the industry is already on track to deliver.

“The impact of this lack of clarity has been a number of media stories that detract from both the One Health message that we as a country so badly need to promote, but also the enormous efforts of our livestock sectors thus far in achieving a 40% reduction in antibiotic use over the past five years.

“The voluntary approach our livestock industry is taking is very much alive and well. But I am extremely concerned that these false impressions could demotivate and detract from the plans in place, putting in jeopardy the ambitions Government is so keen to promote.

“I would therefore like to send a message to our livestock sectors to say that their efforts have very much been recognised and appreciated, and trust has been placed in them that they will not rest there, but will continue to work towards delivering the Government-endorsed targets they have set with the support of RUMA.”

New Government AMR vision welcomed by UK farm livestock industry

A focus on animal health and disease prevention within the UK Government’s new cross-departmental antimicrobial resistance (AMR) action plan, launched today (24 January) by Secretary of State for Health the Rt Hon Matt Hancock at the World Economic Forum at Davos, has been warmly welcomed by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance.

The new 5-year National Action Plan was published alongside a longer-term ‘UK AMR 20-year Vision’, which brings together ambitions from human and animal health, environment and food chain sectors.

RUMA chairman Gwyn Jones said that together, the reports underline the 40% reduction in antibiotic use achieved by UK livestock farming since the last strategy was published five years ago. Furthermore, he added, they show the potential the industry has to be a future world leader in responsible use of antibiotics.

He said: “The new 5-year National Action Plan will support our plans to continue progress in reducing, refining or replacing antibiotic use. The chapters on food-producing animals focus on planning ahead to prevent disease wherever possible, keeping livestock healthy and ensuring appropriate and responsible use of antibiotics only where necessary to treat disease and protect animal welfare.

“There is also a strong focus on improving quality of data, a subject very much front of mind in the cattle and sheep sectors in particular at the moment.

“We are very pleased that these areas are already central to the individual sector targets developed by RUMA’s Targets Task Force in 2017. As we progress towards 2020 – when most of the targets need to be achieved – we will continue to see concerted efforts to target and eliminate endemic disease through improved use of screening and vaccines, which will undoubtedly increase animal health nationally,” he explained.

“As a consequence, we anticipate antibiotic use will continue to fall – and the aspiration expressed in the Government plan that the result will be a further 25% reduction between 2016 and 2020 is definitely achievable.”

Mr Jones said the next job would be to support each sector in looking at objectives beyond 2020. “These are likely to focus on maintaining responsible use and continuing to improve underlying heath, farm infrastructure, nutrition, genetics and preventative measures.”

Mr Jones added that he was pleased the narrative around the AMR issue in the UK had moved away from one of blame between veterinary and human healthcare, to a genuine interest in what each other is doing.

“For example, the potential presence of antibiotics and resistance genes in the environment is an area that is of growing concern to both medical and veterinary specialists. We are looking to boost our understanding of and action in this area by recruiting a specialist in environmental science to our Independent Scientific Group in the near future.

“We all need to work together – the risk of antibiotic resistance is a medical, veterinary, environmental, food and business challenge we all share. We are now working far more closely with colleagues in other disciplines and it’s evident there is much benefit to be had.”

Eminent medical researcher joins RUMA scientific group

Professor Sharon Peacock CBE, Professor of Clinical Microbiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), has joined the Independent Scientific Group which advises RUMA. She will sit alongside other eminent researchers and scientists from the veterinary, medical and microbiological field, providing insight and recommendations to inform RUMA’s policy on the responsible use of medicines in farm animals.

Professor Peacock joined the LSHTM in 2015, having previously been Professor of Clinical Microbiology in the Department of Medicine at the University of Cambridge. She is also an Honorary Faculty Member at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

Her research group work focuses on the use of genome sequencing technologies in clinical and public health microbiology. Particular interests include translating sequencing technologies in routine clinical medicine to improve infection control, and characterising relationships and transmission of pathogenic bacteria between different reservoirs, including humans, livestock and the food chain, and sewage.

Speaking of her decision to join the group, Professor Peacock says she looks forward to contributing her knowledge of antimicrobial resistance, including evidence from the use of bacterial sequencing which – when combined with epidemiological information – can define how antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in people, animals and the environment may be related.

She says: “The UK farming industry is making great strides in responding to the challenge of antimicrobial resistance, especially in its reductions and clear targets. But new information is emerging all the time, and using this to target activities where they will be most effective will be beneficial for everyone.

“I look forward to working with this highly expert group and advising RUMA on policies that create the greatest opportunities for safeguarding antibiotics that are essential for human and animal health.”

Catherine McLaughlin, chair of the Independent Scientific Group, has welcomed Professor Peacock’s agreement to join the team. She says it is critical that RUMA operates to strict scientific principles and embraces opportunities to work on a One Health basis with medical and environmental counterparts.

Ms McLaughlin says: “We have seen a very positive move away from the ‘blame game’ where the medical and veterinary and farming communities blame each other for increasing levels of antimicrobial resistance. Now everyone is taking collective responsibility and working together really well under the One Health banner.

“We look forward to Professor Peacock adding further medical and environmental input to the group in its regular discussions.”

RUMA’s Independent Scientific Group, now comprises (alphabetically):

  • Professor David Barrett, Professor of Bovine Medicine, Production and Reproduction at University of Bristol (deputised by Dr Kristen Reyher, Senior Lecturer in Farm Animal Science at University of Bristol);
  • Dr Ian Brown, Consultant Clinical Research Fellow at Oxford University and Oxford University Hospitals and Chairman of the Government’s Advisory Committee on Animal Feedstuffs;
  • Professor Mark Fielder, Professor of Medical Microbiology at Kingston University;
  • Professor Nigel Gibbens, former Chief Veterinary Officer and consultant with Itinerant Vets Ltd;
  • Mr Daniel Parker, avian expert for UK government, technical advisor to the British Poultry Council and lecturer at Cambridge University Veterinary School;
  • Professor Sharon Peacock, Professor of Clinical Microbiology at LSHTM
  • Dr Shabbir Simjee, Technical Advisor in Microbiology & Antimicrobials, Elanco Animal Health;
  • Mr Martin Smith, Lead Veterinary Surgeon, British Quality Pigs

Since 2014, the UK livestock farming industry has reduced use of antibiotics by 40% and is currently working on reaching a number of sector-specific targets for reducing, refining or replacing antibiotic use by 2020.


New report shows progress in achieving farm antibiotic targets to reduce, refine & replace

Twelve months after industry-led targets for antibiotic use were identified for all main farm livestock species in the UK, a review of progress has been released, including details of where targets have been achieved early and where challenges remain.

The ‘One Year On’ report, issued today (16 November) by RUMA’s Targets Task Force, is a follow up to the work of the group in 2017, when a leading farmer and veterinary surgeon from each sector identified different starting points and potential for reduction in each species then worked with their respective sectors to gain support for the plans [1].

RUMA’s secretary general Chris Lloyd says this new review not only shows the transparency and accountability with which each sector is addressing its targets, but also collects information on progress into one place.

“The UK farming industry has already achieved reductions of 40% in sales of antibiotics over the past five years [2] and is one of the lowest users of antibiotics in Europe. However, delivering against these and future sector-specific goals will be key to meeting the government’s ambitions in its new 5-year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy, to be released early next year,” he explains.

“What this review shows is the industry as a whole is committed and making good progress – but also that the sectors are all in very different places.

“Some species have met their targets already but now, with a measure of what’s happening in their sector, they know they can go further and are working on new goals. For others at or around their optimal level of use, progress is about animal health, continual refinements to what they do and working to overcome new diseases threats as they emerge.”

He says the pig sector is on track to meet its ambitious target reductions by 2020 but there is awareness of how much tougher it will get each year to deliver the changes needed; next steps could require investment or some brave decision-making for some.

“Cattle and sheep farmers and their veterinary surgeons are also working on a range of interventions, although a lack of representative data on antibiotic use across these specific sectors continues to be a challenge. If they had access to better data, this would give them more clarity over what is actually being used, and when – and where – improvements could be made.”

Mr Lloyd also stresses the importance of responsible reductions that do not compromise animal health and its associated welfare.

“The approach has to be sustainable with an end-goal of optimal – not zero – use. Antibiotics play an important role in preventing pain and suffering in our farm livestock as well as ensuring food safety. This is why it’s important to judge progress against the whole range of qualitative and quantitative measures in the review.”

Download RUMA TTF 1 year on – Full Report FINAL here.

[1] Targets Task Force report. RUMA, October 2017

[2] Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance Report 2017


Response to FSA surveillance report on antimicrobial-resistant E. coli in meat

RUMA welcomes the latest antibiotic resistance surveillance report from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), published today. The positive news is that levels of antimicrobial resistant E. coli in UK retail meat remain low. This is consistent with the findings of other recent UK surveillance which has found that the number and levels of antibiotic-resistant isolates is not increasing, or is even reducing in some areas, despite the complexity of the relationship between antibiotic use and the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The anomaly of the mcr-1 gene found in the imported (non-UK) beef sample as reported by the FSA appears to be a one-off incident. However, while isolation of a colistin-resistant organism does not mean that colistin has been used in that animal, this finding has given all sectors an opportunity to review current tight measures regarding use of Highest Priority Critically Important Antibiotics (HP-CIAs).

All veterinary organisations covering the main farm animal species in the UK have restricted use of colistin to absolute last resort or eliminated its use completely over the past three years. Regarding the specific situation in cattle, the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) issued guidance in January 2017 that colistin should only be used as last resort when no other options remain to safeguard animal welfare, and once sensitivity testing has been carried out.

Further safeguards are in place through Red Tractor, which covers 85% of UK beef production, stating that HP-CIAs for the beef, lamb and dairy sectors must only used as a last resort under veterinary direction alongside sensitivity and/or diagnostic testing.

For context, sales of colistin in UK farm animals have fallen 99% since 2013, and just 7kg in total was used in 2017. This is one thousandth of the EU recommended maximum.

Gamebird producers slash antibiotic use

RUMA has welcomed figures released today which show that in the two years since the gamebird sector rolled out its voluntary campaign to reduce antibiotics, overall use has fallen by 51%, with antibiotics incorporated in gamebird feed slashed by 70%.

The figures, announced by The Game Farmers’ Association (GFA), have been calculated in collaboration with Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and are based on prescriptions written by gamebird vets throughout the UK. The association says that a further year of good engagement by the gamebird sector in 2018 has brought overall usage of antibiotics down by another 24% this year. Together with last year’s substantial fall, this confirms that the industry has halved antibiotic use since our voluntary campaign was rolled out in 2016.

Detailed analysis of the 2018 result shows that in-feed use fell by 35% this year, whilst use of antibiotic in soluble treatments fell by 10%. The difference reflects a continuing focus on treating actual disease outbreaks rather than feeding medicated rations ‘just in case’, and also the need to treat some late disease outbreaks associated with the excessively hot summer.

Further antibiotic reductions in farming welcomed amid calls for better cattle and sheep data

A fall of 18% in sales of all antibiotics used to treat UK farm animals last year, and 29% in sales of highest priority critically-important antibiotics (HP-CIAs), has been welcomed by RUMA.

The new data released today (24 October) by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) in its 2017 Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance (VARSS) report means that sales of veterinary antibiotics for use in farm animals have fallen by a total of 40% since 2013, and now sit at 37mg/kg.

The VMD’s surveillance programme also shows that resistance to antibiotics in bacterial isolates taken from food-producing animals remains low for most antibiotics, and is absent for others.

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones has praised the hard work undertaken to reach this point, with the UK one of the lowest users of antibiotics for farm animals in Europe. But he also cautions there is lots more to do in driving responsible use while safeguarding animal health and welfare and food safety. Engagement with efforts to improve data collection remains a key part of this.

“Because a large percentage of products are used to treat multiple species of animal, figures for actual use by species, on farms, are critical to understand patterns in individual sectors. They are also needed to help those sectors to monitor, improve and get recognition for their achievements – and to meet their 2020 antibiotic use targets,” explains Mr Jones.

He says most of the reductions over the past few years have come from first the poultry meat sector, then pig and gamebird sectors, which have all released comprehensive usage figures covering almost all their producers.

Smaller datasets are being accessed for dairy and beef – a big step forward – but national data on these sectors remains harder to capture due to their more diverse supply chains, the large number of producers involved and greater prevalence of mixed enterprise operations.

“This means we can’t be sure of how representative the figures are,” says Mr Jones. “For example, antibiotic usage figures in the 2017 VARSS report indicate that dairy cows fell from 26mg/kg in 2016 to 17mg/kg in 2017. This is based on one large dataset of veterinary practice prescriptions – the best we currently have – but we must be mindful that because this database covers 31% of dairy cows, it may not be typical of the whole dairy sector.

“Recent studies have also suggested that while few antibiotics are used in the best dairy operations, a small number of farms could be responsible for a large portion of use*. Improving the quality of data collection can only help us better understand where we really are, and inform and advise those who need to change their practices.”

Similar issues have arisen in beef cattle with the relatively small dataset in the 2017 VARSS report suggesting antibiotic use at 19mg/kg, whereas it was previously considered to be lower. “A wide range across different types and stages of beef production is likely, but we won’t know unless we have meaningful national data from producers themselves.

“The same applies to the sheep sector, which is working very hard with great leadership on tackling usage ‘hotspots’, but currently lacks the data to quantify progress,” adds Mr Jones.

One solution could be around the corner in the form of an electronic Medicine Book (eMB) for cattle. Currently being run as a pilot project at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), eMB-Cattle is being modelled on the successful eMB-Pigs, which – based on a Red Tractor assurance requirement – has secured antibiotic usage data for around 90% of the national pig herd in 2017.

In the meantime cattle and sheep farmers have responded positively to the call for responsible use, and individual veterinary practices, assurance schemes, retail supply chains and consultants have launched initiatives over the past two years to support them. These range from recording and benchmarking antibiotic use to systematic evaluation of current practices so that areas to improve stewardship can be identified.

RUMA will cover many of these initiatives in a ‘Targets Task Force: One-Year On’ report on progress against sector-specific goals, due to be released in November.


* Quantitative analysis of antimicrobial use on British dairy farms. Hyde R et al, Veterinary Record (2017) 181(25).

Latest ESVAC report highlights overall progress as well as UK efforts to reduce antibiotic use

While UK farm animal antibiotic sales data for 2016 have been out for almost 12 months, the European Medicines Agency’s Eighth ESVAC report on Sales of veterinary antimicrobial agents in 30 European countries in 2016 is the first opportunity to review progress to reduce, refine or replace antibiotics across all European countries in that year. While different countries face very different challenges which make it difficult to compare progress, the ESVAC report is useful for ensuring the UK is making appropriate and adequate contributions to responsible use of antibiotics which are important to both human and animal health.

Overall, it’s very welcome news that antibiotic sales for European farm animals have fallen so significantly over the past 6 years – by some 20%. The UK’s significant reduction in antibiotic use over the past two years means that it was among the lowest users of antibiotics overall in 2016, but particularly among countries that have large domestic populations and /or highly productive farm animal sectors.

To quantify this in antibiotic sales per weight of livestock (in kg) at time of treatment (mg/PCU), the UK’s 2016 sales of antibiotics to food producing animals was 45mg/PCU compared with the European average of 125mg/PCU. The UK had the lowest colistin sales of any country maintaining access to this highest priority antibiotic, at just 0.02mg/PCU against the European average of 6.4mg/PCU; the EU’s recommended maximum level of use for colistin is 1mg/PCU. And UK sales of the other highest priority antibiotics – fluoroquinolones and 3rd & 4th generation cephalosporins – also show good progress, at 0.2mg/PCU and 0.1mg/PCU respectively compared with European averages 2.7mg/PCU and 0.2mg/PCU.

While the downward trend in usage across Europe is a positive start, it is important to ensure that animals continue to be able to receive the most appropriate treatment when necessary. For this reason the EU must promote and support the development of alternative treatments and management tools to deliver improvements in animal health and welfare and public health.

UK (mg/PCU) EU Average (mg/PCU)
Total Use 45 124.6
Fluoroquinolones 0.2 2.7
3rd and 4th Gen Cephalosporins 0.1 0.2
Polymyxins (colistin) 0.02 6.4

UK antibiotic sales data for 2017 are due to be released in late October 2018.

Campaign aims to remind prescribers and farmers that #VaccinesWork

A new #VaccinesWork campaign running from early September to the end of October will explore the role vaccines can play in helping to protect health and welfare in all farm animal sectors, and in supporting reductions, replacements or refinements in antibiotic use.

In particular, it will highlight the differences in vaccine penetration between farm animal sectors, highlighting where there may be scope for greater uptake, as well as the gains to be made from storing, handling and administering vaccines correctly.

The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance, which is co-ordinating the campaign, says the poultry and fish sectors have successfully used vaccines for a number of years within comprehensive and integrated health programmes. With considerable achievements in antibiotic stewardship under their belts, it’s hoped other sectors will take inspiration from this.

“Vaccination is not a ‘silver bullet’ for disease control, but it can be an important part of an infection prevention and control of disease planning process, which all farms should have in place in consultation with their vet,” explains RUMA’s secretary general Chris Lloyd.

“In the sheep and cattle sectors, uptake of vaccines is generally low, so the campaign will ask farmers and prescribers to consider whether there is scope to increase levels of vaccination to improve herd or flock immunity – and potentially profitability – on their farms.

“Vaccination is already much higher in pigs, but improving how vaccines are stored, handled and administered could boost results significantly.”

He points out that more than 50 vaccines are currently available for both cattle and pigs to treat a wide range of bacterial, viral and protozoal diseases, and almost 30 for sheep [1]. “We want to ask whether we are really making best use of the protection these could offer,” he says.

He says figures from 2016 suggest only 17% of cattle that could be vaccinated against Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) were given vaccine despite half of herds being affected, and just 22% of cattle received the vaccine for the virus that causes Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) despite the disease being present in 70% of herds [2].

“Sheep face similar challenges,” says Mr Lloyd. “Just 42% of sheep farmers are currently vaccinating against clostridial diseases and pasteurellosis, two of the most common preventable diseases causing death in sheep and lambs. And only 36% are vaccinating for enzootic abortion and 22% for toxoplasmosis, which are responsible for more than three-quarters of abortions or stillbirths between them [3].”

Specialist sheep veterinarian Fiona Lovatt says vaccination against both abortion and footrot are key elements of the sector’s plans to tackle ‘hotspot’ areas of antibiotic use in what is a relatively low-use sector. But she says farmers will need to move quickly if they want to improve protection against abortion for the coming season.

“Ewes need to be vaccinated four weeks before the tups are turned out,” she explains. “So farmers need to act quickly to protect their ewes and prevent abortions at their next lambing. Everyone who buys in ewes is at risk of enzootic abortion and by far the best protection – as well as the most cost-effective – is to vaccinate ewes before they go to the tup for the first time.”

Pigs have far higher uptake of vaccines than cattle and sheep, with 90% of all eligible pigs being vaccinated for Porcine Circovirus (PCV2) and around 70% for Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae. Vaccination for Porcine Reproductive & Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), known as Blue Ear, is also common.

But Mandy Nevel from AHDB Pork says that while uptake of vaccines is high, this doesn’t guarantee the vaccines will work as well as they could.

“It’s good news that vaccines are so well-used, but the number of animals involved means vaccination is not an easy job. It can be stressful to handlers and animals, leading to short cuts and poor practice.

“A failure to correctly follow storage, administration and vaccine course instructions can undermine the efficacy of the vaccine which can mean they do not work as well as they can. This may include incorrect storage temperatures – especially freezing – as well as expired use-by dates and failure to deliver the full course.

“This is why – for pigs – the #VaccinesWork campaign will be encouraging producers to look at what could be stopping them and their employees making the most of their vaccination programmes.”

In order to ensure prescribed vaccines work effectively, it is essential that the manufacturer and prescriber’s instructions on storage, dose rate and dose interval (e.g. if repeat doses are needed) are followed accurately.

Occasionally, a disease challenge may present itself for which there is no suitable licensed vaccine. In consultation with the farm vet, laboratories can sometimes  develop what are known as autogenous vaccines specific to the pathogen causing the problem on the farm. The vet may also, in some circumstances and in consultation with the regulatory authorities, be able to import a suitable vaccine from either another EU country or from outside of the EU.

To find out more about #VaccinesWork go to, where you can post messages of support or advice, and tweet your top tips.



[1]  NOAH Compendium (2018)

[2], [3]  MSD, Looking Beyond Antibiotics (2017)

New AMR surveillance report from FSA welcomed by RUMA

The Food Standards Agency has today released a surveillance study of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria isolated from chicken and pork on sale in the UK. Its aim is to address current gaps in evidence about the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in meat, and throw light on any links with antibiotics used to treat disease in farm animals.

Gwyn Jones, the Chair of the RUMA Alliance, has welcomed the report, saying: “Our focus is on reducing, refining or replacing antibiotic use; while some livestock sectors have already achieved extraordinary results, there is definitely more to do in others. We believe the FSA’s new research will add to the bank of knowledge and help identify additional interventions that have the potential to reduce antimicrobial resistant bacteria in food, while safeguarding our continued access to antibiotics which treat disease and prevent pain or suffering in animals.”

He added: “It’s important to recognise that antibiotic resistance is a naturally-occurring phenomenon which happens as bacteria defend themselves against attack. Resistant bacteria can be found anywhere and everywhere, and any use of antibiotics in human or animal medicine can lead to the development of resistance. However, cutting antibiotic use doesn’t necessarily cut the levels of resistant bacteria found, and that is why this study will prove valuable over time as more datasets are added.

“In the meantime, we are pleased that the FSA’s advice is the risk presented by any antibiotic resistant bacteria in food remains very low, and that raw food should – as ever – be stored appropriately, handled hygienically and cooked thoroughly to ensure any bacteria present, resistant or not, are destroyed.”

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