World Health Organization urges end to antibiotics use in healthy food-producing animals

Alicia Farmer
November 12, 2017

Antibiotics should not be used in these animals for the goal of disease prevention without diagnosis, the directive says.

A review of almost 200 separate studies, commissioned by the World Health Organization and published in The Lancet, indicated that cutting antibiotic use in food-producing animals could have a significant impact on the problem.

Paul Cosford, medical director at Public Health England, said: "Antibiotic resistance is not a distant threat, but is in fact one of the most risky global crises facing the modern world today".

It said animals should be treated with the drug listed as "least important" to human health, and not with those classified as "highest priority" or "critically important", which are often the last resort or only option for treating serious bacterial infections in humans. There is misuse and tremendous overuse of these antibiotics and this is leading to antibiotic resistance. For its part, the Director General of the OIE, Monique Eloit, agrees that veterinary medicine progressed enormously thanks to antibiotics, so that preserving its effectiveness and availability through its responsible use and good conservation and breeding practices is essential for health and animal welfare.

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In some countries, around 80 percent of the total consumption of medically important antibiotics is used in the animal sector, according to World Health Organization numbers. For example several types of bacteria have already become resistant to treatment with numerous available therapies and only a few options are remaining.

Any further "unsubstantiated" restrictions in antibiotic use beyond those agreed under new antibiotic targets announced recently could make the problem worse, according to the pig industry.

In 2006, the European Union went on to ban the use of antibiotics for growth promotion among animals.

According to the latest recommendations by the World Health Organization, there should be complete reduction in the use of all classes of medically important antibiotics in food producing healthy animals for the objective of heath and growth of the animals. Most consumers are also looking to consume animals and their produce that is free of antibiotics. The list groups all antibiotics now used in humans and animals into three categories - "important", "highly important" and "critically important" - based on their importance to human medicine.The overall objective is to encourage prudent use to slow down antimicrobial resistance and preserve the effectiveness of the most critical antibiotics for medicine. It is about reducing excessive use and ensuring that diseases, both in humans and animals, receive the most appropriate treatment.

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