WHO Warns Against the Use of Antibiotics in Food-Producing Animals

The World Health Organisation has released a new warning against the excessive use of antibiotics and medically approved anti-microbials in farm animals that supply food.

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WHO Warns Against the Use of Antibiotics in Food-Producing Animals

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Highlights

  1. The World Health Organisation has released new guidelines
  2. The aim is to limit the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in animals
  3. Healthy animals should only receive antibiotics to prevent disease
The World Health Organisation has released a new warning against the excessive use of antibiotics and medically approved anti-microbials in farm animals that supply food. In the last few years, there has been a sharp rise in the use of antibiotics in animals which imposes a major global health threat to human health by spreading antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are used commonly by farmers and producers to prevent viral diseases and make sure animals remain healthy to produce the required yield. However, there is a great risk of antibiotic resistance that can be caused in humans when they consume the meat or dairy products from such animals. 

According to the World Health Organisation, about 80% of total consumption of medically important antibiotics is in the animal sector, largely for growth promotion in healthy animals. 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.

In its press release, WHO quotes a recent study published in the The Lancet Planetary Health which shows that interventions that restrict antibiotic use in food-producing animals reduced antibiotic-resistant bacteria in these animals by up to 39%. Given these significant findings, WHO proposes some new guidelines to curb the use of antibiotics in farm and food-producing animals.

Here are some highlights of their new guidelines:

1. WHO strongly recommends an overall reduction in the use of all classes of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals, including complete restriction of these antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention without diagnosis.

2. Healthy animals should only receive antibiotics to prevent disease if it has been diagnosed in other animals in the same flock, herd, or fish population.

3. Where possible, sick animals should be tested to determine the most effective and prudent antibiotic to treat their specific infection.

4. Antibiotics used in animals should be selected from those WHO has listed as being “least important” to human health, and not from those classified as “highest priority critically important”. 

5. Depend more on alternative options to using antibiotics for disease prevention in animals such as improving hygiene, better use of vaccination, and changes in animal housing and husbandry practices. 

The new WHO recommendations aim to help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics that are important for human medicine by reducing their unnecessary use and misuse in animals.

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