Difference between legal and illegal antibiotic treatment detectable

Published on
December 1, 2015

Researchers from RIKILT Wageningen UR have developed a method that can identify the difference between the legal and illegal antibiotic treatments that are used in the poultry farming sector. The difference is made discernible in the plumage of the poultry.

Simple detection of antibiotic treatment

The poultry farming sector uses antibiotics to treat bacterial infections in chickens. Due to the rise in bacterial resistance, European Union policy focuses on reducing the use of antibiotics. This new method of analysis allows for the easy identification of antibiotic treatments whereafter a comparison can be made with the farm administration. Moreover, treatments can be antedated, and a clear distinction can be made between registered use and off-label use of antibiotic treatments. This will lead to better monitoring of the use of antibiotics in this sector. 

Difference between treatments

This new method of identification can discern between registered oral therapeutic treatment, off-label spray treatment and the illegal long-term subtherapeutic treatment with the antibiotic enrofloxacin. Traces of enrofloxacin and its metabolite, ciprofloxacin, remain detectable in and on the feathers of poultry for a significant period of time after treatment. Based on the positioning and distribution of the antibiotic on and in the feathers, it is possible to state the time period during which the treatment was administered and the type of treatment that was used.  

This new method is a unique and effective aid for the implementation of current European Union policy towards the elimination of the off-label and unnecessary use of antibiotic treatments.


RIKILT wrote a scientific paper on the subject.

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