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HEAL ▶▶▶TH


China taking steps to reduce antibiotics usage


After years of consuming high volumes of antibiotics, China appears to be well on the way to reducing its antibiotic usage. In 2019, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture was already reporting a substantial decrease, and a recent article in The Lancet confirmed that trend.


BY REBECCA KWAKMAN, CONTENT MANAGER INTERNATIONAL I


Weaner pigs having a snooze on a farm in Jiangsu province, China.


f one industry has made significant progress over the last decade in China, it must be that of veterinary medicine. Around 10 years ago, China was a huge consumer of anti- biotics, and biosecurity practices were applied but not


always wholeheartedly embraced. Fast forward to 2021 and a completely new picture emerges. Obviously the presence of highly pathogenic Porcine Repro- ductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus as well as African Swine Fever have shown that in terms of biosecurity great strides can be taken to enhance animal health status on-farm. On top of that, the Chinese authorities have stepped up their efforts to reduce levels of antibiotic usage.


Reducing antibiotics usage The Chinese Academy of Sciences estimated that in 2013, China consumed nearly half of all antibiotics worldwide, 52% of which – representing about 97,000 tonnes – was administered to animals, presenting a major risk factor for antimicrobial resistance.


An article in Nature reported that, in August 2019, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) had pub- lished official figures for the volume of antibiotics being used in livestock farming. According to that bulletin, between 2014 and 2018 the consumption of antibiotics in the Chinese agri- cultural sector had dropped by 57%, to below 30,000 tonnes. That reduction followed tight regulations in China, although the data lack detail or explanations, the article describes. But even though such reduction has been achieved, the size of the Chinese agricultural industry means that their net consump- tion of antibiotics for use in livestock farming is still substantial.


Colistin a catalyst for change Concrete data are available for the compound that was key to the change in policy: colistin. A discovery in 2015 was key to antibiotic reduction in China. A large team of researchers no- ticed increased reports of resistance to colistin during routine monitoring of Escherichia coli in farm animals. An E. coli strain, SHP45, that possessed a kind of resistance transferrable to other strains was isolated from a pig. The team then discov- ered a gene, mcr-1, that conferred more effective resistance in bacteria but was carried by a specific kind of DNA – a plas- mid. This raises the possibility of it spreading to other bacte- ria that are already resistant to other kinds of antibiotics, causing them to become “superbugs”. On 30 April 2017, the Chinese government banned use of colistin as an animal growth promoter in an effort to control the spread of resistance. Recent Chinese research, published late 2020 in The Lancet by a large team coordinated by micro- biologist Professor Yang Wang of China Agricultural Universi- ty in Beijing, reviewed the patterns in colistin resistance and mcr-1 abundance in E. coli from animals and humans be- tween 2015 and 2019 to evaluate the effects of the colistin withdrawal. The conclusion is clear: “The colistin withdrawal policy and the decreasing use of colistin in agriculture have had a significant effect on reducing colistin resistance in both animals and humans in China.”


Antibiotics ban boosts additive market The Chinese National Action Plan to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance (2017–2020) was launched to eliminate the use of antibiotics in livestock feed by 2020. It encompassed three key initiatives:


12 ▶ PIG PROGRESS | Volume 37, No. 7, 2021


PHOTO: VINCENT TER BEEK


PHOTO: HENK RISWICK


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