Veterinary antimicrobial use and resistance epidemiology

Antimicrobial exposure is generally accepted as an important risk factor for emerging antibacterial resistance, posing risk to human health.  Antimicrobial usage in animals affects the development of antimicrobial resistance, spreading resistance in the food chain and through animal contact.

The National Food Institute, the Technical University of Denmark develops and applies pharmaco-epidemiological methods in descriptive and epidemiological studies to gain insight into veterinary prescription patterns, i.e. how antimicrobial agents and other types of medicine are used, including:

  • Identification of factors determining antimicrobial use
  • Quantification of associations between prescription patterns and antimicrobial resistance
  • Antimicrobial resistance risk assessment

Results from the research at the National Food Institute suggest that prescription patterns might be used as indicators of emerging disease or unwanted behaviour in medication. The research has identified clear associations between antimicrobial use and occurrence of resistance. Significant differences in antimicrobial prescription patterns have been identified between herds, regions and veterinarians. Research suggests that prescription patterns might be used as indicators of emerging disease or unwanted behaviour in medication.

The National Food Institute provides advisory services to national food authorities in methodology for measuring and controlling antimicrobial use, and provide scientific basis for risk management, such as legal interventions and antimicrobial guidelines for use. In this regard, one of the main responsibilities of the Institute is contributing to the annual DANMAP report, the Danish Integrated Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring and Research Programme, specifically on veterinary usage of antimicrobials.

A pivotal tool in the research and public sector consultancy at the National Food Institute is VetStat. As part of the Danish national strategy to combat antimicrobial resistance, a national database named VetStat, covering all prescriptions of veterinary medicine in Denmark, was established in 2000.

VetStat contains detailed data on end-user level of all prescriptions of veterinary medicines, including species, age group and herd identity. Until now, the VetStat database has been an important tool in the surveillance of antimicrobial usage as a basis for legal interventions and in epidemiologic studies.


Faculty of life Science, Copenhagen University
Danish Agriculture and Food Council 
Danish Veterinary and Food Administration
DTU informatics
European Medicine Agency
LEI, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
WHO Collaborating Center, Folkehelseinstituttet, Norway


Frank Møller Aarestrup
Professor, Head of Research Group
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 62 81


Flemming Bager
Head of Division
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 69 96
16 FEBRUARY 2020