Antibiotics are drugs that kill bacteria or inhibit their growth. This gives the immune system time to clean up an infection. The use of antibiotics in livestock farming can entail risks for humans and animals. Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics and this resistance can be transmitted to other bacteria. As a result, infections with these antibiotic-resistant bacteria are more difficult to treat.
Reducing antibiotics use in livestock
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria from animals, specifically livestock, can be can also be transmitted to humans. Although the extent of this problem is still unknown for the various resistant bacteria, it’s still an important reason for drastically reducing the use of antibiotics in livestock. Veterinary antibiotic use has indeed fallen sharply since 2009. Despite this favourable development, it is remains a priority to study antibiotic resistance in humans and animals.
This dossier contains relevant information about antibiotic use, monitoring and research.
Veterinary use and sales went down
The use of antibiotics in livestock farming has fallen sharply since 2009. Between 2009 and 2017, sales of veterinary antibiotics fell by 63.4%.
Compared to 2015, antibiotic use in 2016 fell significantly in nearly all sectors. Moreover, the veterinary use of antibiotics that are critically important for humans (especially third and fourth generation cephalosporins) has been reduced to an absolute minimum.
Antibiotic resistance has continued to decline in the pork and poultry sectors and has stabilised in veal calves and dairy cattle. In the latter sector, antibiotic resistance has been at a low, stable level for several years.
The decline in veterinary antibiotic use during the last seven years is reflected in the continuing decline in antibiotic resistance found in livestock and livestock products.
Yearly monitoring: NethMap / MARAN
In 2009, the national government launched a programme with the primary aim of reducing antibiotic resistance. To achieve this aim, it is important to make the antibiotic use explicit –measurable – and to report on this use annually.
According to the most recent NethMap/MARAN report, the number of infections in humans with resistant bacteria has remained stable. However, there is concern about an increase in the number of outbreaks of resistant bacteria in hospitals or nursing homes. In 2016, the consumption of antibiotics prescribed by general practitioners fell by approximately 2% relative to 2015. In hospitals in the Netherlands, total antibiotic use remained stable.
The use of antibiotics in livestock farming has fallen sharply since 2009. This reduction in veterinary use has contributed to a decline in antibiotic resistance found in livestock and livestock products.
To ensure that people in the Netherlands can continue to be treated with antibiotics for bacterial infections, intensive research and effective monitoring are required.
Statistics on veterinary antibiotic use are published annually in a MARAN report. This acronym stands for Monitoring of Antimicrobial Resistance and antibiotic usage in Animals in the Netherlands. This report is the result of collaboration between Wageningen Bioveterinary Research, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the Dutch Working Party on Antibiotic Policy (SWAB), the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA), the association for infectious diseases (VIZ), the Dutch association of hospital pharmacists (NVZA) and the Dutch association for medical microbiology (NVMM).
For the past 15 years, a MARAN report has been published that presents data on antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance in the Netherlands. Since 2012, the NethMap report has been combined with comparable data in human healthcare.
Complete summary: MARAN reports