According to new advisory guidelines from the United Nations health agency WHO yesterday (7th November 2017), the farmers and the food industry need to stop the use of antibiotics among healthy farm animals routinely. At present many farmers use these antibiotics on healthy animals to make sure that they grow better and diseases are prevented in them.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), in his statement said, “A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak.” He was part of the new guidelines that were released yesterday on the use of antibiotics among animals. “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 explained.
A woman tends her chicken farm in San Nicolas, Colombia. Photo: World Bank/Charlotte Kesl
Marc Sprenger, a scientist at WHO added that the over-use and misuse of these antibiotics is seen both among humans and in animals on the farms. But animals are getting much more of the antibiotics than humans. Kazuaki Miyagishima, director of the Department of Food Safety at the WHO added that, “It’s very important that we reduce use in human medicine and in animal production.”
These are the first formal; guidelines on this issue that is released by the WHO. It calls upon veterinarians to prevent unnecessary use of antibiotics especially those that are life saving among humans. The report calls to attention the fact that in several countries nearly 80 percent of the national antibiotic consumption is in the animal sector and the main aim of this is to promote growth in the animals. There is misuse and tremendous overuse of these antibiotics and this is leading to antibiotic resistance. For example several types of bacteria have already become resistant to treatment with many of the available therapies and only a few options are remaining. Due to lack of new antibiotics in the developmental stages, resistance to the existing antibiotics is a huge problem.
According to the latest recommendations by the WHO, there should be complete reduction in the use of all classes of medically important antibiotics in food producing healthy animals for the purpose of heath and growth of the animals. Antibiotics should not be used in these animals for the purpose of disease prevention without diagnosis, the directive says. Healthy animals can be given antibiotics if disease of infection is to be prevented when it has occurred in other animals that live within the same herd or flock or population says the WHO guidelines. Antibiotics may be replaced in healthy animals by ways of improved vaccination, maintaining good hygiene and an improvement in animal husbandry practices.
In 2006, the European Union went on to ban the use of antibiotics for growth promotion among animals. Most consumers are also looking to consume animals and their produce that is free of antibiotics. This has driven the movement of reduction of antibiotic use. The WHO wants governments to issue similar bans on the use of antibiotics among healthy animals and also ban the use of the new antibiotics that would be discovered in the future. Public health advocates have lauded the guidelines with experts saying it was a right step at the right time.