Less antibiotic resistance in farm animals

Intestinal bacteria in farm animals have become less and less resistant to antibiotics over the past ten years. This is evident from the NethMap/MARAN report by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Wageningen Food Safety Research (WFSR), Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR) and Utrecht University (UU). The institutes monitor antibiotic resistance in both humans and animals and in food on behalf of the government.

Antibiotic resistance in farm animals is monitored annually. For this purpose, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) takes random samples from broilers, pigs and veal calves. These are offered to the WBVR for research into antibiotic resistance. Kees Veldman (WBVR) is head of the National Reference Laboratory for Antibiotic Resistance in Animals. He is responsible for monitoring antibiotic resistance in farm animals and key editor of the MARAN report. "In addition to E. coli, we also study Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria within our monitoring programme. These bacteria are important causes of food infections and therefore, from a public health perspective, important to monitor properly."

" Resistance in broilers has dropped to lowest level since 1998 "
   Kees Veldman, expert in antibiotic resistance in animals at WBVR

The WBVR monitoring study shows that the resistance to antibiotics of intestinal bacteria in all farm animals has been decreasing over the past ten years. "What is striking in the results of this report is that antibiotic resistance in broilers has fallen to its lowest level since 1998," says Veldman. An important explanation for this is a sharp decrease in the use of antibiotics in poultry farming. "Figures from the Veterinary Medicines Authority show that antibiotic use in broilers in 2021 has fallen by 31.7 per cent compared to the previous year."

Whole genome sequencing
Besides monitoring antibiotic resistance using bacteria, 'whole genome sequencing' was also used. Information from this genetic analysis is reported to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). "The genetic analysis focuses in particular on the so-called enzyme extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) that some bacteria produce," explains Mike Brouwer. As a molecular biologist at WBVR, he is responsible for
the investigation of the genetic background of the antibiotic resistances found within the monitoring programme.

"This new technique provides much more information, such as the relationship between bacteria.

Mike Brouwers, molecular biologist at WBVR
Until recently, for the ESBL-producing bacteria E. coli, the resistance pattern was measured by a susceptibility test. In the past year, this has been replaced for the first time by a new technique called whole genome sequencing. Research shows that the genetic analysis provides the same information as the sensitivity tests. "Moreover, whole genome sequencing provides much more information, such as relatedness between bacteria."
WBVR is one of the first European institutes to use whole genome sequencing to monitor antibiotic resistance in farm animals. "The intention is that other research institutes will also implement this method. As long as this is not yet standard, we will continue to use the sensitivity test in addition to the genetic analysis," says Brouwer.

Antibiotic use
In 2021, fewer antibiotics were sold and used for farm animals than in 2020. Compared to the reference year 2009, sales of antibiotics for farm animals decreased by 70.8 percent, according to a recent publication by the Veterinary Medicines Authority (SDa). Since 2015, strict rules have applied to the use of antibiotics that are crucial for treating infections in humans. Such antibiotics may only be used in very exceptional cases to treat infections in animals.

Antibiotic resistance
The NethMap/MARAN report also shows that the number of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics has remained the same over the past two years. For some bacterial species resistance has decreased compared to previous years. The number of bacteria that are resistant to several antibiotics simultaneously is also stable, according to the researchers from WBVR and RIVM.
Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem worldwide. In the Netherlands, antibiotics are only prescribed when absolutely necessary, which reduces the selection pressure on resistant organisms. We must remain vigilant; monitoring antibiotic resistance and antibiotic use is an important tool in this regard.

One Health
Measures to combat antibiotic resistance do not only focus on humans. Resistant bacteria can also be found in animals, in food and in the environment. The One Health approach therefore focuses monitoring on this entire spectrum.

British investigate suspected foot-and-mouth disease on pig farm
24-06-2022 Britain's Department for Rural Affairs (Defra) is investigating a possible case of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) on a pig farm in County Norfolk. Initial indications are that it is not FMD, the ministry said. However, the ministry is commissioning further tests to completely rule out infection.
Late on Thursday night, British authorities established a 10-kilometre protection zone around the pig farm in the town of Brandon where suspicious symptoms had been detected. "We are currently investigating a suspected case of foot-and-mouth disease in England. As a precaution, a transport ban and a temporary protection zone have been declared. Preliminary tests do not indicate the presence of the disease but further work is being undertaken to rule it out completely," is the ministry's announcement.
Director Zoe Davies of the National Pig Association said: "We are anxiously awaiting the results and keeping our fingers crossed that it is not FMD."
On Friday evening, 24 June 2022, the Chief Veterinary Officer of the United Kingdom confirmed that the infection was not FMD. The veterinary service suspects that it is swine vesicular disease. This is still a notifiable disease, but hopefully less serious than a new FMD outbreak would be.

Parliamentary letter State of play on the monkey pox outbreak.
24-06-2022 Minister Kuipers (VWS) informs the Lower House about the status of the outbreak of monkeypox. See: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/ministeries/ministerie-van-volksgezondheid-welzijn-en-sport/documenten/kamerstukken/2022/06/24/kamerbrief-stand-van-zaken-uitbraak-apenpokken

Avian influenza in the Netherlands.
27-06-2022 The Minister of LNV, also on behalf of the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, answers the questions of member Ouwehand (PvdD) about the new bird flu outbreak in the Gelderse Vallei and the fact that this 'season' a fifth of all ducks in the duck farming sector have been gassed. See: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/ministeries/ministerie-van-landbouw-natuur-en-voedselkwaliteit/documenten/kamerstukken/2022/06/27/antwoorden-op-kamervragen-over-het-feit-dat-dit-seizoen-een-vijfde-van-alle-eenden-in-de-eendenhouderij-is-vergast

Avian influenza cessation order partially repealed
28-06-2022 The Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality has decided to partially withdraw the obligation to keep poultry indoors in a number of regions where this is considered justified. Although there have still been outbreaks of highly pathogenic bird flu in the Netherlands this month (Hierden, Tzum and Biddinghuizen) and dead, infected wild birds have also been found in various regions, the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality wants to give space to free-range farms in regions where the risk of a farm becoming infected with the bird flu virus is now estimated to be lower.
Minister Henk Staghouwer: The bird flu situation in the Netherlands is serious. Many wild birds are suffering from the virus and some 66 Dutch poultry breeding sites have been infected and culled since October 2021. Avian influenza outbreaks among wild birds - such as among colonies of terns on the Dutch coast - are worrying for the conservation of these species and also for the spread of the virus. It suggests that bird flu is here to stay in the Netherlands for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, in regions where it can be considered responsible, I want to withdraw part of the obligation to keep commercial poultry indoors.

Advice from the animal diseases expert group
On 22 June, the animal disease expert group again analysed the bird flu situation and assessed the likelihood of contamination of a poultry farm, given the situation. They also assessed the likelihood of a poultry farm in the Netherlands or in individual regions becoming infected after the suspension of the ban.
The experts have estimated the probability of a poultry farm being infected if the cage requirement is lifted for the whole of the Netherlands as moderate to high.
The experts also looked at the risks in different regions in the Netherlands. The expert group now assesses the risk of contamination of a farm in regions bordering Germany and Belgium (regions 4, 5, 8, 11, 17, 18, 19 and 20, see map) as 'moderate', if the caging obligation is lifted in these regions. In the previous assessment from early June it was 'medium to high'. However, they indicate that this assessment contains a high degree of uncertainty. Since May, there have been no reports of dead wild birds with highly pathogenic avian influenza in these regions and there have been no outbreaks. The lifting of the confinement requirement in neighbouring regions in Germany and Belgium has not led to outbreaks on commercial farms there. With the exception of region 19 in northern Limburg, where the poultry density is very high, the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality has decided to withdraw the confinement restriction in those regions in order to give the free-range sector in the Netherlands some perspective. In the rest of the Netherlands, the housing and protection obligation remains in force.

As many as 57 new ASF cases at the end of June

29.06.22: With no fewer than 57 new recorded ASF infections in German wild boar in the past seven days, the cautiously positive idea that the virus would be significantly reduced has disappeared at a stroke. Last week, there were 'only' 6 infected wild boar and this week there are 57. Of these 57 infected wild boar, 48 were found in the federal state of Saxony and 9 in Brandenburg. With these 57 newly confirmed cases, the total number of ASF infections, according to the Tierseuchen-Informationssystems (TSIS), has risen to 4,046. On 10 September 2020, the first ASF case in a wild boar in Germany was confirmed in Brandenburg. Since then, there have been outbreaks in wild boar in the federal states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony.