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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

A Pilot Study in Sweden on Efficacy of Benzylpenicillin, Oxytetracycline, and Florfenicol in Treatment of Acute Undifferentiated Respiratory Disease in Calves

Welling, Virpi; Lundeheim, Nils; Bengtsson, Bjorn


Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is a major indication for antibiotic treatment of cattle worldwide and some of the antibiotics used belong to classes of highest priority among those listed by WHO as critically important for human medicine. To preserve the efficacy of "newer" antibiotics, it has been suggested that "older" drugs should be revisited and used when possible. In this pilot study, we evaluated the efficacy of benzylpenicillin (PEN), oxytetracycline (OTC), and florfenicol (FLO) for treatment of naturally occurring BRD on two farms raising calves for slaughter. Farm personnel selected calves for enrolment, assigned calves to one of the three regimens in a systematically random manner, treated the calves, and registered the results. Overall, 117 calves were enrolled in the study. Nineteen calves relapsed in BRD before slaughter and were retreated (16.2%) and three died (2.6%). For PEN, treatment response rates after 30 days, 60 days, and until slaughter were 90.2%, 87.8%, and 80.5%, respectively; for OTC, 90.0%, 85.0%, and 85.0%, respectively; and for FLO, 86.1%, 83.3%, and 77.8%, respectively. There were no statistically significant differences in relapse, mortality, or response rates between the three treatment regimens. This indicates that PEN, OTC, and FLO were equally effective for treatment of BRD but the results need to be confirmed in a more elaborate study with a higher statistical power. The findings support the current recommendations from the Swedish Veterinary Association and the Medical Products Agency to use benzylpenicillin as a first line antibiotic for treatment of calves with undifferentiated respiratory disease in Sweden. Due to differences in the panorama of infectious agents and presence of acquired antibiotic resistance, the findings might not be applicable in other geographical areas.


cattle; respiratory disease; treatment; benzylpenicillin; oxytetracycline; florfenicol

Published in

2020, volume: 9, number: 11, article number: 736
Publisher: MDPI

Authors' information

Welling, Virpi
Farm and Animal Health
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Bengtsson, Björn
National Veterinary Institute (SVA)

UKÄ Subject classification

Clinical Science

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