Meat & Livestock News

European Research Connects Reduced Antimicrobial Use in Animals to Lower Human Drug Resistance


  • European research finds cutting down on antimicrobials in farm animals decreases drug resistance in people.
  • A 44% reduction in animal antimicrobial use was observed from 2014 to 2021, according to a study by three EU health agencies.
  • The study calls for continued efforts to lessen antimicrobial use and stresses the role of health promotion practices like vaccination and hygiene.

A collaborative investigation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and the European Medicines Agency has highlighted the impact of decreasing antimicrobial drug use in food-producing animals on the resistance observed in humans. This study, detailed in the EFSA Journal, utilised data from EU-wide surveillance from 2019 to 2021 to explore this relationship.

The findings indicate that efforts to minimise the use of antimicrobial drugs in livestock within European countries have led to a significant reduction in antimicrobial resistance among the human population in these areas. Specifically, the study recorded a 44% drop in the usage of these drugs in livestock between 2014 and 2021, while their application in treating human health conditions remained fairly constant.

The research identified clear correlations between the use of specific antimicrobials and the emergence of resistance to those drugs in both humans and animals. It was noted, however, that the degree of these correlations varied greatly depending on the type of antimicrobial, the microorganism in question, and whether the context was human healthcare or animal husbandry.

The outcomes of this study affirm the positive impact of regulatory and voluntary measures to reduce antimicrobial usage in both sectors across several European nations. It advocates for the ongoing and enhanced application of such measures to ensure the continued decrease in antimicrobial use. 

Furthermore, the study highlights the critical importance of adopting broader health-promoting strategies, including vaccination and the improvement of hygiene standards, to lessen the dependency on antimicrobials.

This research provides vital evidence of the link between the use of antimicrobials in agriculture and the rate of drug resistance in humans, underscoring the necessity for comprehensive health strategies to safeguard both animal and human health.