UN calls for urgent action on antimicrobial resistance

Beef Central, 01/05/2019

International delegates attending an International Forum on Food Safety and Trade in Geneva, Switzerland, last week. Image: World Health Organisation, Pierre Albouy.


THE United Nations has stepped up its global campaign to tackle antimicrobial resistance, warning that if urgent action is not taken drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths a year by 2050 – up from an estimated 700,000 deaths a year from untreatable infections now.

The UN blames the rampant overuse of antibiotics and antifungal medicines in humans, livestock and agriculture for what it terms as an a potentially disastrous and accelerating global drug-resistance crisis.

In a report released yesterday titled “No time to wait: securing the future from drug-resistant infections the UN Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance said the world is already feeling the economic and health consequences as crucial medicines become ineffective.

Among several recommendations included in the report yesterday is a call for an immediate worldwide ban on the use of medically important antibiotics for promoting growth in farm animals.

This measure would not affect Australia’s livestock sector which has long had legislation in place banning the use of critically important antibiotics in both animal and human medicine – see earlier article Why Australia’s cattle sector has a good story to tell on antibiotic use

The report calls for a coordinated, multisectoral “One Health” approach.

It recommends countries:

  • prioritize national action plans to scale-up financing and capacity-building efforts;
  • put in place stronger regulatory systems and support awareness programs for responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials by professionals in human, animal and plant health;
  • invest in ambitious research and development for new technologies to combat antimicrobialresistance; and
  • urgently phase out the use of critically important antimicrobials as growth promoters in agriculture.

“Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats we face as a global community. This report reflects the depth and scope of the response needed to curb its rise and protect a century of progress in health,” said Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General and Co-Chair of the IACG.

“It rightly emphasizes that there is no time to wait and I urge all stakeholders to act on its recommendations and work urgently to protect our people and planet and secure a sustainable future for all.”

The UN expert group behind the report was convened at the request of world leaders after the first ever UN High-Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance in 2016 to formulate a blueprint for the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

“The report’s recommendations recognise that antimicrobials are critical to safeguard food production, safety and trade, as well as human and animal health, and it clearly promotes responsible use across sectors,” said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). “Countries can foster sustainable food systems and farming practices that reduce the risk ofantimicrobial resistance by working together to promote viable alternatives to antimicrobial use, as laid out in the report’s recommendations.”

Related articles:

Lotfeeders’ antimicrobial stewardship program creates world-first

Kay’s Cuts: Antibiotic use takes centre stage in US

One Health, IACG recommendations and the Sustainable Development Goals


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