Animal health

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

Antimicrobials are drugs used to treat infectious diseases caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoan parasites, but they are becoming ineffective.

All uses of antimicrobial drugs - in human medicine, veterinary medicine, and food production - accelerate the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Misuse and abuse make the problem worse.

When microorganisms become resistant to antimicrobials, standard treatments are often ineffective, and in some cases, no drugs provide effective therapy. Consequently, treatments fail. This public health issue increases illness and mortality in humans, animals and plants. For agriculture, this causes production losses, damages livelihoods and jeopardizes food security.

In 2019, 5 million human deaths were associated with bacterial antimicrobial resistance worldwide, including 1.3 million human deaths attributable to bacterial AMR. Therefore, A multi-sectoral coordinated approach is urgently needed to preserve antimicrobials efficacy.

A One Health approach

AMR is a crosscutting issue involving human health and welfare, animal health and production (terrestrial and aquaculture), food and feed safety, crop production and the environment. As a multidisciplinary organization, FAO provides countries with integrated and coherent support to strengthen their capacities and capabilities to manage AMR risks in food and agriculture sectors, in line with five objectives of the FAO Action Plan on AMR 2021-2025:

  1. Increasing stakeholder awareness and engagement;
  2. Strengthening surveillance and research;
  3. Enabling good practices;
  4. Promoting responsible use of antimicrobials;
  5. Strengthening governance and allocating resources sustainably.

This FAO Action Plan supports the Global Action Plan on AMR  in highlighting the necessity of adopting the One Health approach. As part of the Quadripartite, FAO is working closely with key organizations such as the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in a joint global response to the threat of AMR.

FAO works on AMR through a multi-disciplinary working group under the responsibility of the Chief Veterinary Officer and brings together FAO staff and experts both at headquarters and decentralized offices, from several units, including among others, Animal Health, Animal Production, Food Safety, Codex Alimentarius Secretariat, Development Law, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Plant Production and Protection, International Plant Protection Convention Secretariat, and Land and Water.