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In ten years, Swiss agriculture reduces antibiotics usage by half

Published on November 13, 2017

The use of antibiotics in the Swiss agriculture sector has been cut down by almost half over the past decade, claims the Swiss Farmers’ Union (SFU). Although work remains to be done, they called Monday for similar efforts in the human medical realm.

In a press release to mark the beginning of Antibiotic Awareness Week, which Switzerland is celebrating in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the SFU said the total quantity of antimicrobic substances used in treatment of livestock has dropped by 45% since 2008.

This is due to various factors, it said: firstly, a recent ruling has banned the usage of critical antibiotics when it comes to livestock. This excludes the use of any preventative treatment or treatment that has not been preceded by a veterinarian consultation.

In the case of poultry and eggs, it said, Switzerland uses much less antibiotics than other countries largely due to the stringent measures of hygiene that are in place across the country.

Meanwhile, milk producers have also managed to cut down by privileging complementary medicines and by selectively breeding, which also helps to prevent the development of resistances, a problem that is a cause of concern for animals as well as humans.

Slowing down resistance

The SFU noted, however, that reducing antibiotic quantities is not in itself enough to stamp out the issue of resistances developing, a point highlighted by the Federal Office of Public Health last week.

The health office called on called on farmers to rethink industrial farming conditions, as too many animals packed together can result in the development of fatal methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus(MRSA) infections.

The Antibiotic Awareness Week, which runs from November 13 to 20, comes as officials in Switzerland and elsewhere are warning about the fatal dangers of a growth in antibiotic resistance among humans.

In Switzerland, there are an estimated several hundred deaths from resistant bacteria each year, officials said at a media conference last week. And although resistance cannot be stopped, it can be slowed down, which is why antibiotics should only be prescribed when absolutely necessary, the health office warned.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/dos