Research and analysis

Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance 2017

This report (UK VARSS) provides the details of UK veterinary antibiotic resistance and sales surveillance.


UK-VARSS 2017 Report

UK-VARSS 2017 Supplementary material

UK-VARSS 2017 Highlights report

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UK-VARSS 2017 PowerPoint Set

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2017 Erratum


The UK-VARSS 2017 Report presents veterinary antibiotic sales data in the UK from 2013 to 2017, food-producing animal sectors’ usage data and antibiotic resistance data from 2015 to 2017.

The UK-VARSS 2017 Supplementary Material provides further details including antibiotic resistance data from Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The UK-VARSS 2017 Highlights summarises key facts from the main report.

The UK-VARSS 2017 PowerPoint set has been prepared from the UK-VARSS 2017 Report with data on antibiotic sales, antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance. On each slide there is a page number referenced to the main report to enable those using the slides to read full description and analysis of the figures. The PowerPoint set has been made available in downloadable format to allow pick and mix for your presentations on antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic sales data

Veterinary pharmaceutical companies submit data annually to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) on their previous year’s sales of antibiotics authorised for use in animals. The VMD uses the data provided to calculate the volume of active antibiotic ingredient within the medicines sold.

Sales data are used as an estimate for antibiotic usage. However, as not all antibiotics sold will be used, sales figures are generally an overestimate. Sales data do not permit more detailed analyses, for example of the consumption of antibiotic by animal species or production class.

Antibiotic usage data

Many antibiotics are authorised for use in multiple species, so it is not possible to determine how much is used per species from sales data alone. The VMD is working in partnership with key food-producing animal sectors to develop, facilitate and coordinate antibiotic usage collection systems.

Antibiotic usage refers to the amount of antibiotics purchased, prescribed and/or administered. Producers, feed companies and veterinary practice sales records provided the data presented in the UK-VARSS report.

UK-VARSS 2017 presents usage data from the meat poultry, pig, gamebird, laying hen and dairy sectors and for the first time also from the beef, salmon and trout sectors.

Monitoring of antibiotic resistance

The VMD collates data from government laboratories on antibiotic resistance in bacteria found in samples from animals. This is managed through two programmes: EU Harmonised Monitoring, which is carried out as a legal requirement, and a clinical surveillance programme, which relies on voluntary submission of samples by farmers and veterinary surgeons.

EU Harmonised Monitoring involves the collection of samples from healthy livestock. Samples are tested for the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. The bacteria of interest are those which can potentially transfer between animals and humans (zoonotic organisms). Specifically, this includes bacteria which are common causes of food poisoning such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli.

The clinical surveillance programme involves the collection of field samples from sick animals that have been submitted to government laboratories by a farmer or veterinary surgeon for diagnostic purposes. Any bacteria identified, including those which may cause disease in animals (veterinary pathogens), are tested for antibiotic resistance.

Findings from both programmes are reported to the VMD. Monitoring antibiotic resistance allows changes or trends in the level of resistance to be picked up. Data from the EU Harmonised Monitoring surveillance programmes are also submitted to the European Food Safety authority (EFSA) for inclusion in the annually published European Union Summary Report on Antimicrobial resistance in zoonotic and indicator bacteria from humans, animals and food in the European Union.

You can find previous UK-VARSS reports on the collection page.

Published 24 October 2018
Last updated 29 October 2019 + show all updates
  1. PowerPoint Presentation file corrupted now reloaded.

  2. Minor update to erratum. Corrected 2017 sales data added to PowerPoint sets.

  3. 2017 erratum with corrections to sales data published. Watermark added to report and all supporting documents. Please refer to the 2017 erratum and the UK-VARSS 2018 report (when available) for updated sales data.

  4. First published.