The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned livestock farmers and food producers globally to stop using antibiotics on healthy animals.
“The 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,” the organisation said at the launch of a set of guidelines for the use of antimicrobials in food producing animals.
The WHO said the over-use and abuse of antibiotics in animals and humans contributes to the rising threat of antibiotic resistance, threatening the future health of human populations.
“Approximately 80% of the total consumption of medically important antibiotics is in the animal sector, largely for growth promotion in healthy animals.”
Humans and food producing animals share the same or similar antibiotics to treat bacterial infections and in the case of animals, also to prevent disease and promote growth. This means antibiotic resistant bacteria that develops in animals due to overuse can also be transmitted to humans.
The organisation advises farmers to only administer antibiotics to healthy animals to prevent disease if it has already been diagnosed in animals in the same flock, herd or fish population.
Farmers should, where possible, test sick animals so the most effective and prudent antibiotics can be identified to treat a specific infection. They must also rather choose treatment with antibiotics that is “the least important to human health.”
In an effort to curb the rise of antimicrobial resistance due to the overuse of antibiotics, the WHO put together “Guidelines on use of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals.”
The guidelines were put together with evidence-based recommendations and best-practice statements on use of medically important antimicrobials.