The use of antimicrobial agents in humans and food-producing animals has important consequences for human and animal health, as it can lead to the development of resistant bacteria (pathogens and/or commensals with resistance genes). Moreover, resistant bacteria in animals can be transferred to people – usually through the consumption of food, but also through direct contact with food-producing animals or through environmental spread. Ultimately, this can result in human infections with bacteria that are resistant to antimicrobial agents and that can therefore be difficult or impossible to cure. Of special concern is resistance to antimicrobial agents classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as critically important for human medicine, such as fluoroquinolones, third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins, and macrolides. WHO encourages the agricultural, food, veterinary and health sectors to work together to eliminate the burden of antimicrobial resistance arising from the use of antimicrobial agents in food-producing animals. Joint efforts should be made to reduce the inappropriate use of antimicrobial agents (e.g. the use of antimicrobials as growth promoters) and limit the spread of bacteria resistant to antimicrobial agents. WHO will continue to address this issue in conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Organisation for Animal Health, the animal health/production industry and other important stakeholders. It will also continue to enhance the capacity of its Member States (through training courses and sentinel studies), particularly developing countries, to conduct integrated surveillance of antimicrobial use and resistance, to carry out risk assessments to support the selection of risk management options and to implement strategies for the containment of antimicrobial resistance.
Antimicrobial agent – Antimicrobial resistance – Containment – Food animal – Multisectoral – World Health Organization.