Stop using antibiotics to promote growth, prevent disease in animals: WHO

WHO's new recommendations are aimed at preventing resistance against antibiotics, which are extensively used to treat diseases in humans

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Tuesday 07 November 2017

The World Health Organization has come up with new recommendations asking farmers and food industry to avoid use of antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease in healthy animals. This would prevent resistance against antibiotics, which are extensively used to treat diseases in humans.

WHO estimates that in many countries, approximately 80 per cent of total consumption of antibiotics is in the animal sector.

The step is important considering that many pathogens that cause diseases in humans are already resistant to existing antibiotics. Also, no new antibiotic has been developed recently. “A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak,” says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “Strong, sustained action across all sectors is vital if we are to turn back the tide of antimicrobial resistance and keep the world safe," he adds.

The WHO's guidelines are based on a review published today in The Lancet Planetary Health that shows that restricting antibiotic use in food-producing animals can reduce antibiotic-resistant bacteria in these animals by up to 39 per cent. 

Few months back, WHO categorised antibiotics and announced an advisory on which of these antibiotics can be used for common infection and which ones to be preserved for more serious circumstances.

READ: India uses large amounts of antibiotics in animals and their use is mostly unregulated

The WHO also suggests that wherever possible, sick animals should be tested to determine the most effective and prudent antibiotic to treat their specific infection. Antibiotics used in animals should be selected from those that WHO has listed as being “least important” to human health.

"Scientific evidence demonstrates that overuse of antibiotics in animals can contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistance," says Kazuaki Miyagishima, director of the Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses at WHO. "The volume of antibiotics used in animals is continuing to increase worldwide, driven by a growing demand for foods of animal origin, often produced through intensive animal husbandry,” Miyagishima adds.

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