The World Health Organization released a powerful set of guidelines on Nov. 7 urging farmers to reduce the use of antibiotics in fish farming and food animal productions.
If humans want to keep the world safe, by turning back the tide of antimicrobial resistance, then it is vital to take a strong and sustained action across all the sectors, according to Director General WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak," Ghebreyesus said.
Antibiotics And Superbugs
WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have both stated that without immediate action, humans may soon be exposed to a world where antibiotics can no longer be effective against superbugs, such as drug-resistant bacteria.
Antibiotics are misused and overused in animals and people globally, which has allowed superbugs to flourish and cause difficult-to-treat infections. One out of every three antibiotics prescribed to patients is unnecessary, according to the CDC.
Antibiotics are often used as a preventive measure for illnesses that can occur when animals are overcrowded or are kept in unsanitary conditions, which is not a smart use of life-saving antibiotics, according to a report. Public health advocates have been calling for an end to the practice for over a decade.
Though the Obama government had set reduction targets for both outpatient and inpatient settings, no such reduction target was set for antibiotics use in food animal production.
Now, the new guidelines by WHO calls for a ban on using drugs for promoting growth and an end to prevention uses of the drugs unless a specific bacterial illness has been diagnosed in the animals.
The WHO guidelines give the United States, and the world at large, a roadmap to move animal agriculture away from its dependence on using antibiotics routinely.
The organization has called on veterinarians to not use antibiotics that are most critical to human health. It also reportedly wants governments to ban the use of any new antibiotics in animals that scientists may discover in the future.
"Scientific evidence demonstrates that overuse of antibiotics in animals can contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistance," Department of Food Safety Director at WHO, Dr. Kazuaki Miyagishima, said.
"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.”
Incidentally, WHO’s new guidelines were directly informed by a systematic review, which was published in The Lancet Planetary Health on Nov. 7.