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World Health Day: FAO supports the prevention of antimicrobial resistance and the responsible use of drugs

29 March 2011 - Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is facilitated by inappropriate and irrational usage of antibiotic medications. AMR can be precipitated, for example, by taking substandard doses of antibiotics or not finishing prescribed courses of treatments. Additionally, wrong prescription delivery, low-quality medicines, and poor infection prevention and control can encourage the development and spread of AMR. The unregulated and unsupervised uses of antibiotics in animal production systems create favorable conditions for resistant microorganisms to emerge, spread, and persist.

AMR has been found in microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. The virulent versions of these microorganisms are involved in numerous diseases to animals and humans. When microorganisms become resistant to common antibiotic medications they are sometimes referred to as superbugs because treatments do not work effectively. This is a major concern to medical practitioners, governments and societies because infections that cannot be treated can cause pain, disease and fatalities while spreading to others in the process, whether these are flocks, herds or human populations, thus presenting huge risks to global health.

Infections and the resulting diseases that are caused by resistant microorganisms often fail to respond to standard medical treatment regimes with antibiotic medications, resulting in prolonged illness and greater risk of death. As the emergence of AMR continues to rise, many diseases that are infectious to animals and humans run the risk of becoming uncontrollable and 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, products of acceptable quality, income generation, job creation, economic growth, or the alleviation of poverty. Animals suffering from resistant infections more likely to perish, which translates to a complete loss of income-generating assets and shortfalls of nutritional sources (e.g. eggs, meat, milk, or offal). Furthermore, the growth of global animal trade and travel of humans allows resistant microorganisms to be spread rapidly to distant countries and continents.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will be celebrating World Health Day on 7 April 2011, 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 and legislation planners, the general public and patients, physicians and veterinary practitioners and prescribers, pharmacists and dispensers, animal and human health associations, and the global pharmaceutical industry, to implement proactive practices and policies needed to prevent and counter the emergence of highly resistant microorganisms.

FAO of the UN is an institutional partner of the World Veterinary Year 2011.



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