The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recommended sales to vets of medicines containing the “last resort” antibiotic colistin should be radically reduced.

Suggested new target levels could mean a 65% reduction in use of colistin across member states in an attempt to combat a growing threat of antimicrobial resistance following the identification of the plasmid-mediated colistin resistant (mcr-1) gene in China last year.

-65%Public Health England (PHE) scientists subsequently retested thousands of samples from the PHE Sequence Archive in this country, with 15 isolates (13 in humans and 2 in poultry meat) imported from the EU proving positive.

Reclassification bid

The EMA also wants colistin-containing medicines to be reclassified for use as a category two – second line treatment in animals.

The agency said, over the next three to four years, all member states should reduce the use of colistin in animals at least to a target level of 5mg colistin/population correction unit (PCU), where PCU is the estimated weight of livestock and slaughtered animals.

If successfully applied, this could result in an overall reduction of about 65% in the sales of colistin for veterinary use at an EU level.

‘Serious issue’

The VMD stated, even though UK sales were already below EMA targets, “nevertheless, this issue is taken seriously by the industry”.

It said: “Since the discovery of mcr-1 in November 2015, additional self-imposed restrictions have been brought in by the UK pig and poultry sectors, recognising the importance of keeping colistin as an antimicrobial of last resort.

“These initiatives are likely to decrease UK veterinary use of colistin even further over time.”

  • Read more about the EMA’s recommendation in the 15 August issue of Veterinary Times.
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