The ‘Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics’ has unveiled a new report calling for the ban of fluoroquinolone antibiotics use in poultry production.
The report, which was discussed at the organisation’s ‘Antibiotic and Farming: Prescription for Change’ conference in London last week, suggests the effectiveness of fluoroquinolones, which are classified as critically important in human medicine, is being undermined by their continued use in poultry.
Coilin Nunan, principal scientific adviser for the alliance, explained fluoroquinolones were introduced to veterinary medicine across the EU in the early 1990s. “From then on we saw a large increase in both animal and human resistance to fluoroquinolones,” said Mr Nunan.
The World Health Organisation classified fluoroquinolones antibiotics as ‘critically important in human medicine’ due to their importance for treating infections such as campylobacter, salmonella and e.coli.
However, mass medication of poultry with fluoroquinolones is still permitted in the UK and most of the EU, although it was banned in the US in 2005, and is also not permitted in any Nordic country or in Australia.
Commenting on the situation in the US and Denmark, Mr Nunan said there had been claims the bans on fluoroquinolones had failed because they had not reduced resistance rates in humans.
“However, the rate of human campylobacter infections in the US is 22 per cent, which is much lower than the average for the EU which is 60 per cent. This is despite much higher levels of quinolone antibiotics in human medicine in the US compared with most EU countries.”
He said the UK is the lowest user of fluoroquinolone antibiotics in human medicine in Europe, and per person uses less than a third of the quantity used in the US, yet it has a fluoroquinolone resistance rate in human campylobacter which is far higher than the US (48 per cent in England).
In Denmark, fluoroquinolone resistance in human campylobacter infections has increased in recent years and now stands at 35 per cent, despite no use of the antibiotics in Danish poultry.
However, rather than blaming human fluoroquinolone use, Mr Nunan said this was due to large increases in recent years in the importation of poultrymeat into Denmark from countries which use fluoroquinolones in poultry.