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Bloomsbury PhD Studentship: Antimicrobial usage in farm animal veterinary practice in the UK: A mixed methods approach

Project Description

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an increasing problem for animals and humans. An important approach to address AMR is to reduce drug resistance selection upon bacterial populations by reducing or changing antimicrobial (AM) usage. AMs are commonly used in farm animal practices and it is likely this promotes increased risk of AMR bacteria in both animal and human populations. In 2016, a total of 337 tonnes of antimicrobials were sold for use in animals in the UK (VMD, 2017). β-lactams, tetracycline, and trimethoprim/sulphonamides were the most frequently used in all species and over 70% of the total quantity sold were authorised for food-producing animals. These sales data highlight the potential importance of AM usage in farm animal practice to AMR, but provide insufficient details of the actual usage patterns, or particularly high risk groups of farm animals.

VetCompass (www.rvc.ac.uk/VetCompass), based at the RVC, is a collaborative programme that shares veterinary de-identified clinical information to develop and improve the evidence base and support improved welfare, clinical and regulatory decision-making. VetCompass collaborates with over 1,000 practices in the UK, with health data from over 10 million companion animals and has published on AM usage in companion animal practice (Buckland et al. 2016). This VetCompass approach is strongly placed to be applied to farm animal practice and quantify AM usage. Combined with qualitative assessment of drivers to prescribe this study could help inform on AM usage. This proposed study aims to develop data collection from farm animal species and to describe AM usage in farm animal practice, and explore the main indications and risk factors for AM usage in the UK.

Objectives of the study:
1. To estimate the prevalence of AM usage overall in farm animal practice
2. To describe the clinical indications and characteristics of farm animals receiving AMs, in particular for cows and sheep.
3. To evaluate risk factors associated with AM treatment.
4. To investigate the qualitative factors that influence AM usage.

AM usage will be evaluated from recruited farm animal practices working within VetCompass. AM data collected will include agent, metrics of usage, route of administration and clinical notes relating to these events. The

Indication for therapy will be described via detailed manual review of the clinical notes from a random sample of farm animals receiving AM therapy and via machine learning approaches currently being trialled for conditions in companion animals within VetCompass. Cases of AM therapy will be compared to animals not receiving AMs during the study period to evaluate major risk factors for AM usage via multivariable logistic regression analyses.

In addition to the quantitative element, the project will also use semi-structured qualitative interviews, documentary analysis and observations to investigate factors that influence prescribing decisions. Key informants will be identified and qualitative work undertaken to explore how evidence about optimal antimicrobial usage in farm animal veterinary practice is interpreted and why this evidence may or may not be implemented in practice.

We invite outstanding and highly motivated students with an undergraduate degree (1st class or 2.1) in a veterinary, agricultural, biological, economics or statistical subject. A Master’s degree in epidemiology or related subject would be desirable. An interest in developing qualitative research skills (interviews, documentary analysis, observational techniques) and a desire explore the potential for mixed‐method insights into complex questions would be valuable. Experience of farm animal management or farm veterinary practice would be advantageous.

Interviews will take place between the 8th and 22nd March at RVC’s Hawkshead Campus.

We welcome informal enquiries - these should be directed to Professor Dave Brodbelt:

Funding Notes

This is a three year fully funded Bloomsbury colleges PhD studentship, and is open to Home/EU applicants. International students are welcome to apply but must be able to fund the difference between UK/EU and international tuition fees.
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The studentship will commence in October 2019.

If you are interested in applying for this position, please follow the link below. Please use your personal statement to demonstrate any previous skills or experience you have in using both qualitative and quantitative research methods.


1. Buckland EL, O'Neill D, Summers J, Church D, Brodbelt DC (2016) Characterisation of antimicrobial usage in cats and dogs attending UK primary care companion animal veterinary practices. Vet Rec. doi: 10.1136/vr.103830

2. De Briyne N, Atkinson J, Pokludová L, Borriello SP. (2014) Antibiotics used most commonly to treat animals in Europe. Vet Rec. 2014 Oct 4;175(13):325.

3. Speksnijder DC, Jaarsma DA, Verheij TJ, Wagenaar JA. (2016). Attitudes and perceptions of Dutch veterinarians on their role in the reduction of antimicrobial use in farm animals. PVM, 121, 365-373

4. VMD (2017). UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance (UK-VARRS) report 2016. www.gov.uk/government/publications/veterinary-antimicrobial-resistance-and-sales-surveillance-2016.

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