International week of sensitization on prudent use of antibiotics: also in veterinary medicine

date: 20/11/2019

18 to 24 November, 2019 is the international week of sensitization on prudent use of antibiotics. Not only in humans, but in animals too. Antibiotic use in veterinary medicine has fallen sharply in recent years, but the fight isn't over yet.

Reduced antibiotic use is absolutely essential. Only in this way can we further reduce the resistance to antibiotics and safeguard the health of people and animals.

Vision 2020 plan and antibiotics covenant: 3 Objectives
There are three objectives for reduced antibiotic use in veterinary medicine in the Vision 2020 plan of the knowledge centre for antibiotic use and resistance in animals (AMCRA) from 2014. The objectives are included in the antibiotics covenant from 2016 between the federal government and the various partners involved in the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine, such as agricultural organisations, veterinarian's associations, animal health organisations and other links in the animal production chain.

35.4 % less antibiotic use, 2 objectives already met
A first objective, using 50% less feedstuffs that contain antibiotics by 2017 was met in 2017. With regard to reference year 2011, the use of the feedstuffs in 2018 was 69.8% lower. And the second objective, using 75% fewer antibiotics by 2020 that are exceedingly important for human health (so-called critical antibiotics), was already met in 2017. The reduction since 2011 is 79.1%, even though the use of critical antibiotics rose slightly in 2018 because somewhat more was used in poultry. The third objective is reducing total antibiotic use in veterinary medicine by 50% with compared to 2011. Between 2011 and the end of 2018, the use of antibiotics in animals in Belgium fell by 35.4%. The greatest reduction occurred between 2017 and 2018: 12.8%. Still 14.6% to go to meet the 50% objective before the end of 2020.

A targeted approach to heavy users through benchmarking
In 2019, the FAMHP sent a report to all veterinarians treating pigs, poultry or meat calves for the first time that indicated how much antibiotics they prescribe compared to other veterinarians. The livestock farmers also received reports on the antibiotic use in their operations, just like 2018. The benchmarking helps to identify heavy user and heavy providers and to offer targeted support, which ensures a lower and more rational use of antibiotics. On the initiatives of the affected quality labels, since October 1, 2018, dairy farmers can also register their antibiotic use via the AB Register (Flanders) and BIGAME (Wallonia). Dairy farmers how have registered for an entire year can expect a first benchmark report at the beginning of 2020.

Second action plan in the works
The Vision 2020 plan is coming to an end, but a second action plan is already in the works. The AMCRA 2024 plan expands the current policy for registration and benchmarking of antibiotic use to more species, even companion animals. The new plan, together with the actions of the government are part of a “One Health” national action plan for antimicrobial resistance. That “One Health” plan unites all actions for public health, veterinary medicine and the environment in Belgium.

Last updated on 20/11/2019