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Toolbox  –  Prevent infection

Food animals

Measures to prevent infections, such as biosecurity measures and use of vaccines, are among the most important tools to decrease antibiotic use in the animal sector without compromising animal health, welfare and productivity. Also, infection prevention diminishes the risk for spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria between animals and between animals and humans.

To have basic routines for prevention and control of infectious diseases at farms, in veterinary practices and in other human–animal interactions, is crucial to decrease antibiotic use as well as the risk for spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Accurate information about biosecurity measures and data showing the cost-benefit of different measures are important to increase farmers’ motivation to adopt biosecurity measures. Increasing number of reports demonstrate the economic benefit of applying disease prevention measures such as improved heard management, biosecurity and vaccination. These measures can also lead to substantial reduction in antibiotic use. In one study of pig farms, antibiotic use were decreased 52% from birth to slaughter.

Foodborne diseases

Infection prevention efforts are also important to reduce the spread of zoonotic diseases through the food chain. Foodborne diseases kill over 400.000 people á year. Although it is a global problem, the risk of falling ill appears to be highest for children under 5 and persons in low-income areas. Antibiotic resistant bacteria can spread via food, and ensuring food safety is therefore important also for antibiotic resistance containment. Food safety has generally been a low political priority, but as evidence that point out its importance is piling up, it is likely this will change in the future.

Work to improve infection prevention

There are no universal best practices for disease prevention at animal farms, but there are a number of measures that can be taken to improve infection prevention and control and reduce antibiotic use. Set up a program and Interventions provides more information and tools to facilitate the work.

Selected Resources

Resource Description
Information on aquatic and terrestrial animal diseases Information portal from OIE with resources and information on more than 100 diseases affecting animals. Diseases listed in alphabetical order and for the type of animal.
Principles and Strategies 
for the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases 
in Livestock and Wildlife Book chapter that summarizes the main principles and strategies for prevention and control of infectious diseases in animals. See chapter 25 (in Part 2 of Prevention of Infectious Diseases in Livestock and Wildlife).
Foodborne zoonotic diseases Information portal on foodborne zoonoses from the European Food Safety Authority.
Antibiotic resistance from the farm to the table Infographic from CDC that describe how antibiotic resistant bacteria can spread to humans via food and the consequences.
Antibiotic Use in Food Animals Poses Risk to Public Health Article. Information page from PEW discussing current evidence on antibiotic use in food animals and the impact on health, with links to further scientific evidence.
Information on aquatic and terrestrial animal diseases [Internet]. OIE - World Organisation for Animal Health. [cited 2019 Aug 14]. Available from:
Pew Charitable Trusts - PEW. Antibiotic Use in Food Animals Poses Risk to Public Health [Internet]. [cited 2018 Nov 27]. Available from:
Wierup M. Principles and Strategies for the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases in Livestock and Wildlife. In: Ecosystem Health & Sustainable Agriculture, Book 2 [Internet]. The Baltic University Programme, Uppsala University; 2012. p. 380. Available from:
Postma M, Vanderhaeghen W, Sarrazin S, Maes D, Dewulf J. Reducing Antimicrobial Usage in Pig Production without Jeopardizing Production Parameters. Zoonoses Public Health [Internet]. 2016; Available from:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - CDC. Antibiotic Resistance from the Farm to the Table [Internet]. Available from:
European Food Safety Authority - EFSA. Food-borne zoonotic diseases [Internet]. [cited 2016 Jan 7]. Available from:
Grace D. Food Safety in Low and Middle Income Countries. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2016 Jul 3];12(9):10490–507. Available from:
Sayers RG, Good M, Sayers GP. A survey of biosecurity-related practices, opinions and communications across dairy farm veterinarians and advisors. Vet J. 2014 May;200(2):261–9.
Rojo-Gimeno C, Postma M, Dewulf J, Hogeveen H, Lauwers L, Wauters E. Farm-economic analysis of reducing antimicrobial use whilst adopting improved management strategies on farrow-to-finish pig farms. Preventive Veterinary Medicine [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2016 Jul 5];129:74–87. Available from:
Laanen M, Maes D, Hendriksen C, Gelaude P, De Vliegher S, Rosseel Y, et al. Pig, cattle and poultry farmers with a known interest in research have comparable perspectives on disease prevention and on-farm biosecurity. Preventive Veterinary Medicine [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2016 Jul 1];115(1–2):1–9. Available from:
World Health Organization - WHO. WHO estimates of the global burden of foodborne diseases [Internet]. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2015 [cited 2016 Feb 25]. Available from: