Collective Antibiotics Treatment of Pigs Does Not Cause More Resistance than Individual Treatment – University of Copenhagen

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29 June 2017

Collective Antibiotics Treatment of Pigs Does Not Cause More Resistance than Individual Treatment

Antibiotics Resistance

New research from the University of Copenhagen and the Technical University of Denmark suggests that the amount of resistant bacteria in the intestines of pigs treated with antibiotics collectively is the same as in herds where only the sick pigs are treated.


Research conducted by the University of Copenhagen and the Technical University of Denmark in cooperation and published in the American journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology surprisingly shows that collective antibiotics treatment, where all the pigs in a stable are treated though only a few of the animals show signs of the disease, does not cause these pigs to have more resistant bacteria in the intestines at slaughtering than herds where only the sick picks are treated.

Similarly, the pigs subjected to collective treatment neither have a larger pool of DNA coding for antibiotics resistance than pigs treated individually, even though collective treatment is considered a mainspring of the development of antibiotics resistance, because it requires more antibiotics than individual treatment.

’We expected individual treatment to be the best way of treating this disease, while also limiting the spread of bacteria resistance. This was our starting point. We chose enteritis in pigs because it is the largest single cause of the use of antibiotics on livestock in Denmark. But our results show the opposite connection: Collective treatment is the best way of protecting the animals from the disease, and the amount of bacteria resistance in this group of animals is the same as in herds subjected to individual treatment. This is a very surprising result, and on this basis we consider collective treatment an acceptable way of treating this disease’, says Professor John Elmerdahl Olsen from the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences.

The research further shows that the effect of individual treatment on the disease is insufficient, probably because the farmer overlooks pigs requiring treatment.

Until there are better ways of identifying the sick pigs in a herd the researchers recommend that farmers continue with collective treatment in cases where the disease without a doubt is caused by bacteria that can be treated with the chosen antibiotic.  

Read the article Effect of Tetracycline Dose and Treatment Mode on Selection of Resistant Coliform Bacteria in Nursery Pigs