Global civil society issues 'Declaration on Antibiotic Resistance', urges action to avert post-antibiotic era

The Antibiotic Resistance Coalition releases declaration aimed to contain the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. Centre for Science and Environment, as part of the coalition, urges leadership and action by the ongoing World Health Assembly

By Amit Khurana
Published: Thursday 22 May 2014


The Antibiotic Resistance Coalition, comprising civil society organisations and stakeholders from multiple sectors on six continents, has called on World Health Organization (WHO) member states to pass a critical resolution—Combating antimicrobial resistance, including antibiotic resistance—at the 67th World Health Assembly that would spark concerted global action to control the escalating antimicrobial resistance crisis.

Antimicrobial resistance is a general term that refers to resistance to a compound that kills or stops the growth of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungus, parasites and viruses. Antibiotic resistance refers specifically to resistance to anti-bacterial agents.

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The Coalition released a “Declaration on Antibiotic Resistance” on Thursday, highlighting the problem areas and specifying actions that are required to be taken by national governments and international institutions such as WHO. It asserts that effective antibiotics are a finite resource and a global, essential public good and that consumer protection and public health must not be subordinated by governments and international institutions to the pursuit of profit.

The Coalition believes that more and more number of bacterial strains are becoming resistant to increasing number of antibiotics and there are no new antibiotics on the horizon. Antibiotic use causes resistance to emerge and their misuse and overuse accelerates its spread. Without a radical change in antibiotic usage, antibiotic resistance will become one of the greatest threats to humankind and to global economy.

Action areas

The identified action areas in the declaration wherein the Coalition calls for international leadership and action include curbing excessive use while ensuring access for people in need; tackling excessive non-human use in food and agriculture; developing an effective innovation system for new antibiotics, diagnostics and other tools that supports health, access and rational use.

To control excessive use of antibiotics in industrial production of food animals such as poultry and cattle, the declaration demands specific actions to:

  • Completely ban antibiotic use for growth promotion and mass disease prevention
  • Develop a national and global surveillance system to monitor trends in antibiotic use and resistance in humans and animals
  • Delineate the role of veterinarians to guide infection prevention and discourage non-therapeutic antibiotic use
  • Appropriate labelling of antibiotics to be able to monitor consumption and labelling of foods that are produced with and without routine use of antibiotics

Further, it calls for prohibiting animal use of antibiotics that are critically important for humans and regulatory measures and practices that prevent spread of antibiotic resistant genes through soil, water and air.

"Antibiotic resistance is a major public health threat for the Indian population due to inadequate regulatory framework to curb misuse and overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals," says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based not-profit organisation and an active member of the Coalition.

"We demand a global framework for action by WHO. Member states should support a successful resolution on combating antibiotic resistance at the ongoing World Health Assembly," adds Bhushan.

The declaration also calls for action to prohibit the promotion and advertising of antibiotics; promote new, needs-driven and open research and development models based on the principle of de-linkage (divorcing price from research and development costs and sales volumes); and improve public awareness to support an ecological understanding of human-bacteria interaction and behaviour change around antibiotic use.

WHO member states are tentatively scheduled to vote on the resolution on Friday, May 23. The Antibiotic Resistance Coalition will deliver an intervention to the World Health Assembly prior to the vote.

The Antibiotic Resistance Coalition is also inviting other civil society organisations around the world to sign its declaration.

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