Addressing misuse of antibiotics in animals to tackle resistance in humans

Alyssa GovindanNews Around Global Health

Ushering in World Antibiotics Awareness Week, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its guidelines on preventing the misuse of antibiotics in farm animals. The WHO report called on farmers to halt the use of antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease in healthy animals in an attempt to preserve medicines for human use.

As more research is undertaken on the consequences and severity of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), animal consumption of antibiotics (which accounts for 80% of total consumption of medically important antibiotics in some countries) is becoming an area of focus for health experts and scientists. A review by The Lancet Planetary Health found that restricting antibiotic use in food-producing animals reduced antibiotic-resistant bacteria in these animals by up to 39%.

Reflecting on the one-year anniversary of the commitment made by global leaders to tackle AMR at the 71st  United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the WHO announced that not enough progress has been made to combat the continuing rise of AMR.

“If we don’t tackle this global issue effectively together it will jeopardize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and will take us back to a time when people feared infections and risked their lives for minor surgeries.” said Dr. Tedros, Director General of WHO at a side event during this year’s UNGA.

The side event also highlighted one of this year’s victories: McDonald’s pledge to source meat from farms that use antibiotics responsibly. Though most fast-food chains are already serving antibiotic-free chicken, this commitment will hopefully set a precedent for pork, beef and fish.

The WHO recognizes AMR as one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development. Tackling AMR is consistent with achieving the SDGs and is increasingly becoming a top priority for the global health community.

Photo credit: UN and WHO

Alyssa GovindanAddressing misuse of antibiotics in animals to tackle resistance in humans