The United Nations is calling for responsible use of antibiotics in humans and animals to reduce the emergence of resistance which it says has hit crisis levels across the world.
Through the World Health Organisation, World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food Agriculture Organisation, the UN says resistance to antibiotics is rising to dangerously high levels, threatening the ability to treat common infectious diseases.
The WHO says that the continued rise in antimicrobial resistance could lead to the deaths of 10 million people every year and a 3 per cent reduction in gross domestic product by 2050.
Overuse and misuse of antibiotics in animals and humans is contributing to the growing threat of “superbugs” — strains of bacteria that develop resistance to antibiotics, thereby rendering common infections deadly.
“Scientific evidence demonstrates that overuse of antibiotics in animals can contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistance,” said Dr Kazuaki Miyagishima, director of the Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses at WHO.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in a way that reduces the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals, or other agents designed to cure or prevent infections and as a result, they survive and multiply, causing more harm.
“Antimicrobial veterinary medicines are a crucial tool for animal health and welfare and safe food production, but they are by no means the only tool,” said José Graziano da Silva, the director-general of FAO.
A week ago, the WHO launched new guidelines urging farmers and food producers to stop using antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease in animals, asserting that healthy animals should only receive antibiotics from among those listed by the WHO as being “least important” to human health, and only when a disease has been diagnosed in other animals within the same flock.
The call for action by the UN came even as the world celebrated the World Antibiotics Awareness Week organised by the WHO, to raise awareness about antibiotic resistance. The event was also marked in Kenya.