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Antimicrobials
Use of antibiotics in animals and people
  1. Cóilín Nunan1 and
  2. Richard Young2
  1. Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, South Plaza, Marlborough Street, Bristol BS1 3NX e-mail: coilin.nunan@phonecoop.coop
  2. Sustainable Food Trust, 38 Richmond Street, Bristol BS3 4TQ e-mail: richard@sustainablefoodtrust.org

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DAVID Burch questions whether further restrictions on veterinary antibiotic use are required in the UK (VR, September 19, 2015, vol 177, pp 292-293) and, in support of his case, quotes statistics showing that farm antibiotic use per total population correction unit (PCU) in the UK is already significantly lower than in the Netherlands and nearly as low as in Denmark.

However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which publishes annual veterinary antibiotic sales data for European countries, and introduced the PCU unit for comparing the size of different animal populations, has repeatedly warned that ‘interpretation of the data should take into account the distribution of the PCU value between the species in the various countries’ (EMA 2014). This is because, according to the EMA, ‘the use of antimicrobial agents in the various animal species varies considerably; for example, the use of antimicrobial agents in extensive production systems, such as sheep and goats is generally relatively low’ (EMA 2014), whereas ‘the highest usage of antibacterial agents among food-producing animals is generally in pigs’ (Grave and others 2010).

This is particularly relevant in the case of the countries being compared by David Burch since pigs account for a much higher percentage of total PCU in Denmark (75 per cent) and the Netherlands (45 per cent) than they do in the UK (11 per cent), whereas sheep and goats are much more numerous in the UK (40 per cent of total PCU) than in Denmark (0.1 per cent) or …

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