Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)

Antibiotic usage pattern in broiler chicken flocks in Germany

In this work, antimicrobial usage data from 2,546 commercial broiler chicken flocks originating from 37 farms are presented. Antimicrobial usage data at the flock level were based on mandatory documentation of antibiotic treatments in livestock in Germany, collected retrospectively for the time period of 2013-2018. The data encompasses all antimicrobial treatments during the fattening period of each flock, starting with the placement of day-old chicks at the barn. The aim of this analysis was to investigate antibiotic usage patterns in broiler chicken flocks in Germany, temporal trends in treatment frequency, the proportions of different antimicrobial classes and the weights of the broiler chickens at the time of treatment. The median treatment frequency over all flocks was six, and veterinary medicinal products belonging to nine different antimicrobial classes were used. Overall, the most frequently used classes were aminoglycosides (25.6%) and lincosamides (25.6%), followed by polypeptides (21.4%) and beta-lactams (16.2%). Over the 6 years evaluated, a considerable increase in the relative usage of lincosamides and aminoglycosides was observed. Compared to the first year of data collection, the percentage of treatments with fluoroquinolones, macrolides and polypeptides decreased in consecutive years. The median age of the broiler chickens at the time of treatment was 5 days, which corresponded to a median body weight at the time of treatment of 111 g, with substantial differences among various antimicrobial classes. We showed that in Germany, the median weight of broiler chickens at the time of treatment was substantially lower than the standard weight of broilers of 1,000 g proposed by the European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption. The median weight at treatment is very much influenced by the frequency of age-specific diseases. As different antimicrobial classes are used to combat these diseases, variations in the weight at treatment may have a considerable impact on the estimated treatment indicators. Additionally, a decrease in the relative usage of the highest-priority critically important antimicrobials, such as fluoroquinolones, macrolides and polypeptides, was shown, which might be the consequence of increasing awareness of the antibiotic resistance situation as well as of antibiotic monitoring and benchmarking systems currently running in Germany.

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