WHO Warn Farmers Against Giving Antibiotics to Healthy Animals

WHO wants farmers to reduce use of antibiotics in food production

The over-medication of animals and humans further raises the existing threat of antibiotic resistance, which has advanced to a stage where there are no more medications to treat some types of bacteria. Antibiotics are used commonly by farmers and producers to prevent viral diseases and make sure animals remain healthy to produce the required yield. "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". Some kinds of bacteria that can cause serious illnesses in people have developed resistance to most or all available antibiotics.

About 80% of antibiotics worldwide are used in animals, something health experts say is contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, in which common infections no longer respond to the drugs used to treat them.

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".

Some countries have already banned the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in agriculture. 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, World Health Organization recommended.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of World Health Organization said in a statement, "A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak".

The guidelines also provide two best practices for the industry moving forward: any new antimicrobials or antimicrobial combinations developed for use in humans must be considered critically important for human medicine, and, medically important antimicrobials not now used in food production should not be directed to this use in the future.


Previously, WHO requested on-farm antibiotic use standards to be updated through a science-based process of CODEX. In a statement, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official said the World Health Organization guidelines "erroneously conflate disease prevention with growth promotion".

Antibiotics that are considered to be in the last line of defence for humans should not be used at all it says. "The new guidelines illustrate the degree to which our regulators and large food animal producers are falling short".

Consumer support for more judicious antibiotics use has also led to major changes in industry behavior.

"We agree that the prophylactic use of antimicrobials in healthy animals to prevent disease is never a substitute for good animal husbandry and management".

"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.

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