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FAO Statement on World Veterinary Day 2012 - Antimicrobial Resistance


27 April 2012 - On World Veterinary Day, Saturday 28 April, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) renews its call for the responsible use of antimicrobials for veterinary care in food production animals, to ensure these treatments will continue to be effective in both veterinary and human medicine.

It is now well established that the misuse or overuse of antimicrobial and antibiotic drugs in animals can lead to antimicrobial resistance (AMR). AMR has profound impacts on animal health and production. It means that essential veterinary drugs may no longer be available for the treatment of animal diseases, the failure of disease control programmes, increased severity and longevity of diseases, increased mortality, reduced productivity, and increased risk of disease spread in animal populations. This leads to losses of animals and animal productivity, which has impacts not only to individual livestock owners but also to society as a whole due to the impact on the national economy.

As microbes that cause illness in animals become resistant to treatments, they also become resistant to similar treatments used in treating humans. Animals and humans are often susceptible to the same disease causing pathogens; and the drugs used to treat them contain similar active ingredients. FAO’s work in One Health includes this aspect of the interlinked health of animals, humans and the ecosystems in which they live, and strengthening of collaboration among the responsible sectors.

Given the relative ease with which AMR can spread within countries and from one country to another in an increasingly globalized world, there is clearly a need for more global action. These efforts should include:

  • Strengthening of the policy and regulatory framework at the national, regional and global levels;
  • Promoting prudent and responsible use of veterinary antimicrobials;
  • eliminating or phasing out the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal production;
  • ensuring that antimicrobials are only administered or used on prescription by a qualified professional;
  • Reducing the need for antimicrobials in animal husbandry, through improved animal health, by enhancing biosecurity measures, more effective disease prevention (including vaccine use), and good hygiene and management practices;
  •  Eliminating economic incentives that promote the inappropriate prescription of antibiotics
  • Strengthening surveillance of AMR prevalence and trends, and monitoring the quantities of veterinary antimicrobials usage at a national level.
  • Raising awareness (among veterinarians, value chain actors including producers and the public)
  • Supporting research to generate data on prevalence, trends and patterns of AMR and to support risk assessment, risk management and risk communication;
  • interdisciplinary cooperation at the national, regional and global levels.

The FAO has a global mandate to lead international efforts to reduce world hunger, and the livestock production contributes to the overall goal of ensuring that global food production will continue to meet the needs of an the world’s population, which is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.

Antimicrobial drugs are important for food security as they play an important role in ensuring the health of food producing animals. Their effectiveness must therefore be safeguarded to ensure that they remain effective tools for animal treatment, and thereby help to support livelihoods, income generation and economic development in all parts of the world, rich and poor; developed and developing.

FAO works closely with its international partners the OIE and the WHO in supporting countries, particularly developing countries, to strengthen policy, regulatory and surveillance systems and to promote good veterinary, animal husbandry and hygiene practices.

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