The quantitative effect of antimicrobial usage in Danish pig farms on the abundance of antimicrobial resistance genes in slaughter pigs

V. D. Andersen*, F.D. Møller, M.S. Jensen, F.M. Aarestrup, H. Vigre

*Corresponding author for this work

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Research has long established the connection between antimicrobial use (AMU) and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in production animals, and shown that the ceasing of AMU reduces AMR. Our previous study of Danish slaughter-pig production found a quantitative relationship between lifetime AMU and abundance of antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs). This study aimed to generate further quantitative knowledge on how changes in AMU in farms influence the abundance of ARGs both with immediate effect and over time. The study included 83 farms that were visited from 1-5 times. From each visit, a pooled faecal sample was produced. The abundance of ARGs was obtained by metagenomics. We used two-level linear mixed models for estimating the effect of AMU on the abundance of ARGs against six antimicrobial classes. The lifetime AMU of each batch was calculated from usage during their three rearing periods; as piglets, weaners and slaughter pigs (rearing pathway). AMU at farm level was estimated as the mean lifetime AMU of the sampled batches from each farm. At batch level, AMU was measured as the deviation between the batch-specific lifetime AMU and the general mean lifetime AMU at the farm. For peroral tetracycline and macrolide use there was a significant quantitative linear effect on the abundance of ARGs in batches within individual farms, indicating an immediate effect of changed AMU from batch to batch within farms. These estimated effects between batches within farms were approximately 1/2 to 1/3 of the effect estimated between farms. For all antimicrobial classes, the effect of the mean farm-level AMU and the abundance of ARGs present in the faeces of slaughter pigs was significant. This effect was identified only for peroral use, except for lincosamides, where the effect was for parenteral use. The results also indicated that the abundance of ARGs against a specific antimicrobial class also increased by the peroral usage of one or several other antimicrobial classes, except for ARGs against beta-lactams. These effects were generally lower than the AMU effect of the specific antimicrobial class. Overall, the farm peroral mean lifetime AMU affected the abundance of ARGs at antimicrobial class level and abundance of ARGs of other classes. However, the difference of AMU of the slaughter-pig batches affected only the abundance of ARGs at the same antimicrobial class level in the same antimicrobial class. The results do not exclude that parenteral usage of antimicrobials may have an effect on the abundance of ARGs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105899
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

The Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries supported this work.


  • Pigs
  • Antimicrobial
  • Resistance
  • Sequencing
  • Predictive
  • Modelling


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