Sales of veterinary antibiotics in the UK are at the lowest level ever recorded, according to a report published by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).

The report, which was published yesterday (Wednesday, November 1), revealed that sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals fell by 9% last year and have reduced by 59% since 2014.

The VMD’s UK-Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance (VARSS) report also highlighted a positive picture of decreasing resistance across several outcome indicators.

Chief executive of the VMD, Abi Seager, said: “Antibiotic stewardship is embedded in UK farming and responsible use is essential to maintaining our high animal health and welfare standards. 

“I’m encouraged that our vets and farmers continue to make reductions in their antibiotic prescribing and use. 

“We are continuing to expand monitoring to build upon our current knowledge and control the spread of AMR to strengthen the UK’s biosecurity.”

Antimicrobial resistance

The VMD has described AMR as a “global challenge” with wide-ranging impacts across human and animal health, food security, and economic development.

AMR occurs when bacteria, and other microorganisms, develop a resistance to antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, making them less responsive or unresponsive to treatment.

Avoiding unnecessary antibiotic usage in humans and animals is crucial to slowing the development of antibiotic resistance. 

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) works jointly with VMD to monitor bacteria in food-producing animals for AMR and provide the surveillance data presented in this report.

APHA’s director of science and transformation, Jenny Stewart, said: “APHA has a long history of working on antimicrobial resistance in the animal health sector and has been partnering with the VMD for many years, to tackle this important global challenge.

“(This) report is demonstration that our collective hard work is achieving positive progress and we will continue to work closely with UK vets and farmers as well as international partners to develop their AMR capacity.”

UK chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “This year’s UK-VARSS report shows how collaborative working between government and industry is effective in reducing unnecessary antibiotic use.

“It is important that we maintain and build upon this positive progress and so I encourage vets and animal owners to continue to support the UK’s 20-year vision to contain and control AMR.”