Research roundup: How can researchers assess antimicrobial use in swine herds?

November 19, 2020

A recent pilot study established an approach to enable confidential data sharing to advance scientific understanding of how U.S. swine producers use antibiotics. Peter Davies, BVSc, PhD, led the study, which set out to support antimicrobial stewardship across the industry. The study identified variation in antimicrobial use among nine large U.S. swine farming systems — which together produce more than 20 million pigs each year — in 2016 and 2017. The researchers’ findings indicated that the tetracycline class of antibiotics made up roughly 60 percent of total use in the herds evaluated in the study. Antimicrobials classified as critically important for human medicine constituted only 4.5 percent and 5.3 percent of total use, respectively. Now, the researchers are expanding this project among larger swine production systems, and working with the swine industry to further efforts to enable confidential data sharing and benchmarking for smaller producers. The project showed the potential for voluntary data sharing within the industry. The study complements the work of the United States Food and Drug Administration to document sales of antimicrobials in food animals, and paves the way for more extensive and granular data needed to get a better picture of antibiotic use in the national U.S. swine herd population. This project was part of a special issue of Zoonosis and Public Health that focused on antimicrobial use data and collection and represented a public-private partnership that Davies and the team hope to build upon. The study was funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and received support from the National Pork Board. 

Read more in the paper published November 17 in Zoonosis and Public Health.