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Front. Vet. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fvets.2018.00029

Veterinary expert opinion on potential drivers and opportunities for changing antimicrobial usage practices in livestock in Denmark, Portugal and Switzerland

  • 1Veterinary Public Health Institute, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Switzerland
  • 2Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 3Danish Agriculture and Food Council, Denmark
  • 4ICBAS, Abel Salazar Institute for the Biomedical Sciences, Universidade do Porto, Portugal
  • 5CIIMAR, Interdisciplinary Center for Marine and Environmental Research, Universidade do Porto, Portugal

Reducing antimicrobial use (AMU) in livestock is requested by Public Health authorities. Ideally, this should be achieved without jeopardizing production output or animal health and welfare. Thus, efficient measures must be identified and developed to target drivers of AMU. Veterinarians play a central role in the identification and implementation of such efficient interventions.
Sixty-seven veterinarians with expertise in livestock production in Denmark, Portugal and Switzerland participated in an expert opinion study aimed at investigating experiences and opinions of veterinarians about the driving forces and practices related to AMU in the main livestock sectors (broiler, dairy cattle, fattening/veal calf and pig industry) of the aforementioned countries. Opinions on potential factors influencing the choice of antimicrobials and opportunities to reduce AMU were collected.
Antibiograms are seldom used, mainly due to the time lag between testing and obtaining the results. The perceived percentage of treatment failures varied between countries and livestock sectors, however little changes were reported over time (2005−2015). The animal health problems of each livestock sector most frequently leading to AMU did not vary substantially between countries. Mandatory official interventions (i.e. binding measures applied by national or international authorities) were highlighted as having the biggest impact on AMU. There was a variation in the experts’ opinion regarding feasibility and impact of interventions both between countries and livestock sectors. Nevertheless, improved biosecurity and education of veterinarians frequently received high scores. Most veterinarians believed that AMU can be reduced. The median potential reduction estimates varied from 1% in Swiss broilers to 50% in Portuguese broilers and veal/fattening calves in all countries.
We hypothesize that the differences in views could be related to disease epidemiology, animal husbandry, and socio-economic factors. A profound investigation of these disparities would provide the required knowledge for developing targeted strategies to tackle AMU and consequently resistance development. However, experts also agreed that mandatory official interventions could have the greatest impact on antimicrobial consumption. Furthermore, improvement of biosecurity and education of veterinarians, the use of zinc oxide (in pigs), improving vaccination strategies and the creation of treatment plans were the measures considered to have the largest potential to reduce AMU.

Keywords: Antimicrobial use, Livestock, Veterinarians, expert opinion, international comparison, antimicrobial resistance

Received: 19 Oct 2017; Accepted: 09 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Francisco Ruiz-Fons, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Spain

Reviewed by:

Bouda Vosough Ahmadi, Scotland's Rural College, United Kingdom
Merel Postma, Ghent University, Belgium  

Copyright: © 2018 Carmo, Nielsen, Alban, da Costa, Schuepbach-Regula and Magouras. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: DVM, PhD. Ioannis Magouras, University of Bern, Veterinary Public Health Institute, Vetsuisse Faculty, Schwarzenburgstrasse 155, Bern, 3097 Liebefeld, Switzerland, ioannis.magouras@vetsuisse.unibe.ch