Antibiotics in veterinary medicine: fewer sales – resistance situation remains critical

Bern, 10.09.2012 - The sale of antibiotics used in veterinary medicine fell overall by 5% in 2011 compared with 2010. But there is need for action, because the increase in sales volume of newer cephalosporins is continuing. This is a problem in view of the tendency for the development of resistance to these broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Antibiotics are indispensable medicines for use in microbial infections both in human and in veterinary medicine. But their use can also lead at the same time to the development of resistance that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to achieve successful therapy. In Switzerland, therefore, antibiotic resistance has been monitored in production animals and data gathered on the sale of antibiotics since 2006.

Resistance trends
In 2011 the resistance situation did not substantially change with most bacteria studied by comparison with the previous year.

  • As already observed in the previous year, the rate of resistance in Campylobacter isolated from broiler chickens to fluoroquinolones increased further in 2011. This development is worrying since fluoroquinolones are one of the classes of antibiotic with the greatest importance both for veterinary and for human medicine.
  • The occurrence of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staph. aureus) in fattening pigs remained constant compared with the previous year.
  • For the first time in the national resistance monitoring programme, selective methods of detection were used in broiler chickens, pigs and bovine animals to search for bacteria resistant to all penicillins and cephalosporins (so-called ESBL-forming enterobacteria). In these studies, E. coli was found in 32.6% of broiler flocks, 7.4% of pigs and 8.6% of bovine animals. To estimate the importance of these resistance rates for human medicine, the isolates concerned are currently being characterised further.

The standardised collection of resistance data in healthy slaughter animals provides an important decision-making basis for  measures to preserve animal health and food safety in Switzerland; It not only allows resistance to be monitored, but also permits a comparison with the resistance situation in humans and the situation in other countries.

Sales figures
A further decrease in the overall volume of sales has been reported. Sales declined by 5.1% compared with 2010 and by as much as 14% compared with 2008. The most antibiotics sold in terms of volume remain sulphonamides. For the first time, penicillins occupy second place ahead of tetracyclines. Medicated premixes accounted for 65% of the total volume in 2011 and were thus in the same order of magnitude as in previous years.

The stead increase in cephalosporins that was already observed last year is also continuing this year. This is particularly marked in the products for treating mastitis in dairy cows. Here the increase seen over the last 6 years amounts to 71%.

Need for action

The spread of multiresistant bacteria such as MRSA and ESBL-forming enterobacteria, which are also being found to an increasing extent in humans and can now only be treated with a few reserve antibiotics, is a cause of global concern. It is thus necessary to ensure that the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine does not compromise their efficacy in human medicine and that, in terms of animal wellbeing, the selective treatment of animals with antibiotics remains possible at the same time. This objective has been anchored in a strategy paper of the FVO and an action plan drawn up for the next few years. Further information is available at (German or French).

The Swiss 2011 Zoonoses Report has been published

The Swiss 2011 Zoonoses Report was published at the beginning of September. It provides information on the present occurrence and spread of some important zoonoses (infections that can be transmitted from animals to humans) and on the importance of corresponding monitoring and control measures in Switzerland, such as the monitoring of antibiotics resistance. The report can be downloaded or ordered in English at



Address for enquiries

Federal Veterinary Office
Regula Kennel, Head of Communications
Tel: 031 323 84 96

on sales statistics
Cedric Müntener
Tel. 031 322 05 73


Federal veterinary office (FVO) - as from 2013 in the FDHA