Published: Thu, November 09, 2017
Medicine | By Melba Vasquez

Stop Using Antibiotics in Healthy Animals, WHO Urges Farmers

The World Health Organization (WHO) is now recommending against the routine use of antibiotics in food animals, according to new guidelinesreleased by the global public-health agency. Without achieving significant, measurable reductions in their use in food animals, we can not hope to effectively curb the spread of resistant bacteria and preserve the efficacy of medicines needed to treat human illness.

World Health Organization wants to see the complete restriction of these antibiotics for promotion of growth and for disease prevention when there is no diagnosis of an illness. According to these, antibiotics must not be used just to make animals grow faster, or to keep healthy animals from getting sick.

Global health body says food animal industry must stop using antibiotics for growth promotion. Given such high usage of antibiotics in the animal food sector, some common strains of bacteria have already developed resistance and they can cause serious infections in humans.

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David Wallinga, a senior health officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said the guidelines "may be a game-changer in this fight", because they call for "fairly significant changes to how numerous world's biggest food-animal producers now operate, including the U.S."-but "as important as these guidelines are, they are just that-guidelines".

"For example: antibiotics are controlled by prescription in the United Kingdom and use for growth promotion was banned over 10 years ago".

"A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak", says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.

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"If no action is taken today, by 2050, nearly all current antibiotics will be ineffective in preventing and treating human disease, and the costs of losing these drugs will exceed US $100 trillion in terms of national productivity", the United Nations agency predicts in a related policy brief (pdf).

Since 2005, the World Health Organization has published a list of critically important antimicrobials for human medicine that is regularly revised. And healthy animals should only be given antibiotics to prevent disease if that illness has been diagnosed in other animals in the same flock, herd, or fish population. The latter are often the last line used to treat serious infections in people. Consumers are also driving the demand for meat raised without routine use of antibiotics, with some major food chains adopting "antibiotic-free" policies for their meat supplies.

A systematic review published on Tuesday in The Lancet Planetary Health found that interventions that restrict antibiotic use in food-producing animals reduced antibiotic-resistant bacteria in these animals by up to 39 per cent. She noted, "However, before the first meeting of the CODEX was held, the World Health Organization released these guidelines, which according to language in the guidelines are based on 'low-quality evidence, ' and in some cases, 'very low-quality evidence'". The Council claims that "using antibiotics to prevent disease, in most cases, supplants the need to use more potent medically important antibiotics to treat disease".

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