FAO supports measures to minimize and contain antimicrobial resistance (AMR)
The use of antibiotics for treatment of animal diseases has tremendous benefits for animal health and therefore contributes to supporting the livelihoods of livestock owners—particularly those in the poorest countries—and to propel economic development. However, inappropriate use of antimicrobials for treatment and prevention of diseases in food production or companion animals can also lead to the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistant microorganisms.
The misuse of drugs, such as, for example, under-dosing, uncontrolled use to prevent disease, the use of counterfeit, and poor quality compounds can create the conditions that allow resistant microorganisms to emerge, spread, and persist. From an animal production perspective, the undesirable outcomes are the likely failure of disease control programmes or clinical recovery, increased severity of diseases, prolonged morbidity, increased mortality, reduced productivity, higher risks of disease spread in animal populations, and increased costs to society as a whole.
In short, development of resistance to antimicrobial drugs renders life saving treatments ineffective. Many diseases that are infectious to animals and humans could become untreatable and in the process could derail the progress made towards reaching health-related UN Millennium Development Goals set for 2015.
The appearance of AMR in food animals poses serious threats to food security and livelihoods. When food animals are unhealthy and unproductive, they are no longer able to make important contributions to efficient food production, to generate food-products of acceptable quality, to contribute to income generation, job creation, economic growth, or the alleviation of poverty. Animals suffering from resistant infections are more likely to perish, leading to loss of income-generating assets and to shortfalls in food supplies.
Humans can also suffer from prolonged illness, treatment failures, and increased severity of diseases or even death caused by food-borne antimicrobial resistant bacteria, for example Campylobacter and Salmonella. The growth of global trade of animals and products of animal-origin and travel of humans allows resistant microorganisms to be spread rapidly to distant countries and continents—in the process threatening public health.
Measures to minimize and contain AMR are thus essential to ensure the continued availability and efficacy of veterinary and human antimicrobial drugs. This ultimately depends on the responsible and prudent use of antimicrobial drugs and requires appropriate actions to be taken by all those involved in the authorization, regulation, distribution, and use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals.
At a national level this should include appropriate policies and strategies to regulate the authorization of antimicrobial drugs, to control the quality and usage of antimicrobials, to monitor AMR and quantities of veterinary drugs used, and to regulate the manufacture, importation, and distribution of drugs.
Livestock producers also have an important role in ensuring that veterinary drugs are not used as a substitute for good management and hygiene or other disease prevention methods such as vaccination and effective biosecurity measures.
Importantly, they should only use antimicrobials when necessary and in accordance with veterinary advice. Veterinarians play an important role in advising producers on effective disease control measures and good husbandry practices, as well as in promoting responsible and prudent usage of antimicrobials.
To this end, the World Health Organization (WHO) will be celebrating World Health Day on 7 April 2011 under the theme ‘Combat Antimicrobial Resistance’ and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) joins this key initiative.
FAO and WHO call on governments and all relevant stakeholders, including policymakers, regulators, producers, the general public, physicians and veterinary practitioners and the global pharmaceutical industry, to implement proactive practices and policies needed to minimize and contain antimicrobial resistance.