World Antibiotic Awareness Week: Emphasis on preventing antimicrobial misuse across the entire Asia-Pacific biosphere

New AMR publication launched and partnership expanded

12 November 2018 Bangkok, Thailand  - The global tripartite partnership calling for more responsible use of antibiotics in humans, animals and agriculture (including aquaculture and plant production) has announced it is widening its coverage to include the environment sector.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and World Health Organization (WHO) have expanded their partnership to counter antimicrobial resistance (AMR) through the addition of the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment).  The move is intended to attack AMR in a more holistic way.  The new partnership, which will be known as the Tripartite Plus, was announced today at the opening of the World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW) observance in Asia and the Pacific.

FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, Kundhavi Kadiresan, welcomed the establishment of the Tripartite Plus emphasizing the important role that the environment plays in addressing AMR, pointing out that all antibiotics, whether from manufacturing processes, or passing through humans and animals, can end up in soil and water and the environment, giving microbes further opportunity to build up resistance.  

The term antimicrobials is used, pharmaceutically, to describe drugs used to prevent and treat parasitic, bacterial, viral and fungal infections. Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria to survive treatment with antibiotics. Thus, AMR is the general term for drug resistance in microbes. It occurs naturally but misuse of antimicrobials contributes to an acceleration in cases of AMR.

AMR - a major health threat, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

Antibiotics, while very useful medicines invented to fight off infections, are becoming less effective due to over-prescribing physicians, veterinarians, dentists and their misuse by farmers and agronomists. The resulting resistance that has built up over time has become a global health emergency leading the UN General Assembly to include AMR as a priority health issue to be tackled alongside responses to Ebola and HIV.

The global implications of AMR on political, social and economic stability cannot be overstated. This is particularly the case in Asia where by 2050, if no immediate action is taken, some five million people could die each year from bacterial infections that have become resistant to antibiotics, surpassing the projected number of annual cancer fatalities.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week - "handle with care"

The main message of this year's WAAW is ‘handle antibiotics with care.' WHO is focusing on food safety while OIE will be promoting prudent and responsible use of antimicrobials in animals. For FAO, the emphasis is on promoting good farming and biosecurity practices aimed at preventing infection in livestock, aquaculture, and crop production. The overall objective is to strengthen efforts to achieve many of the global sustainable development goals, particularly the goal of zero hunger, by 2030. 

This year, in conjunction with WAAW, the Tripartite Plus revisits the global action plan (GAP) on AMR, which sets out responsibilities for national governments, WHO, FAO and OIE as well as for other national and international partners in responding to AMR. Promoting positive behavioural change remains one of the priorities in mitigating the spread of AMR. Strengthening policies and surveillance is crucial as well.

Launch of new AMR publication

Since September 2016, FAO has further initiated activities in the Asia-Pacific region to harmonize AMR and antimicrobial use (AMU) surveillance and review AMR policies. As part of the FAO regional initiative on One Health, a new regional publication on AMR policy was launched today.

The AMR Policy Review and Development Framework is a regional guide for Asia-Pacific governments to review, update and develop policies to address AMR and AMU in animal production.

Efforts have been strengthened in raising public awareness about AMR in the food and agriculture sector. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Kingdom's Fleming Fund and the Russian Federation have been actively supporting FAO AMR projects to assist countries and the regions in addressing this global threat.

Photo: ©FAO/P. Johnson
A duck farm on the shores of Lake Taihu, in Jaingsu province, China.