People: Kristien Verheyen, Dan O'Neill, David Brodbelt

Vet Compass Project Type: Horse

Dates: December 2020 – March 2021 


Antimicrobial resistance is a significant and increasing threat to both human and animal health. Concerns have been raised regarding the potential over- and mis-use of antimicrobials in veterinary species, with inappropriate use a known driver for the emergence of resistant bacterial populations.  Responsible antimicrobial use is promoted through the concept of antimicrobial stewardship which aims to preserve the therapeutic efficacy of antimicrobials and ensure their continued availability. The surveillance of antimicrobial use is a key component of stewardship. Despite antimicrobials being commonly used to treat and prevent infectious conditions in the horse, little work has been done to monitor antimicrobial use in UK equine practice. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate publish annual antimicrobial sales figures which although provide some insight into the types and volume of equine antimicrobial products sold, do not consider the number of horses treated, reasons for prescription or 'off-label' use. Within the UK, antimicrobials intended for animal treatment can only be prescribed by a veterinary surgeon. Veterinary surgeons are required to keep clear, detailed and accurate clinical records describing all procedures performed and medicines prescribed. For these reasons, veterinary clinical records pose a potentially valuable source of antimicrobial prescription data which can be used to better understand antimicrobial use in equine practice.  

Project Aims:

The aim of this project is to investigate the use of systemic antimicrobials in UK equine practice.  This project will use anonymised veterinary electronic patient record data to:

  • Estimate the usage of systemic antimicrobials in a network of UK equine practices
  • Describe the reasons for systemic antimicrobial prescription in a sample of veterinary-attended horses, ponies and donkeys
  • Evaluate the use of culture and sensitivity testing to direct antimicrobial selection
  • Explore adherence to the prescribing cascade
  • Identify risk factors associated with the use of systemic antimicrobials in the horse
  • Determine risk factors associated with the use of highest-priority critically important antimicrobials in horses receiving systemic antimicrobials  

Relevance of Project:

The surveillance of antimicrobial use is essential for preserving therapeutic efficacy.  Enhanced monitoring of antimicrobial use in equine practice not only encourages more responsible prescription but can be used to identify areas for improved antimicrobial stewardship.  

Dates: December 2020 – March 2021 (4-month project)

Funding Body: Veterinary Medicines Directorate 

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