A Lancet Infectious Diseases report ‘Antibiotic resistance – the need for global solutions’ by 26 international scientists, is calling for immediate action to be taken in human and veterinary medicine to deal with the growing crisis of antibiotic-resistance.
The new report highlights for the first time the link between the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture and the bigger issue of overuse in human health. It shows that any increase in antibiotic resistance in farm animals is likely to spread to humans, and will also impact negatively on animal welfare, leaving some diseases without adequate treatment. This may ultimately impact on farm productivity and food security.
This is the first international report of its kind to recommend action including the phasing out of routine preventative use of antibiotics, a call for change in animal husbandry and the 'development of health-orientated systems for rearing of animals' which do not rely on high levels of antibiotic use.
The scientists say that action needs to be taken immediately, "A way forward would be to acknowledge that human health, animal health, and the environment are all interlinked, and that the responsibility for dealing with the problems of resistance is shared by all stakeholders. The common goal should be to preserve the effect of antimicrobials for future generations of human beings, but also for animals. Antimicrobials should only be used when needed.
"Without effective treatment of serious diseases, mortality and morbidity would increase with negative effects on animal welfare. In the rearing of animals for food production, there would also be consequences for productivity and economy. Eventually, the spread of resistance [in farm animals] could lead to a local food security problem with negative effects on public health."
Tom MacMillan, director of innovation at the Soil Association on behalf of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics said, "This startling new report shows that the routine use of preventative antibiotics in farm animals is something that needs to be phased out for the good of both animals and humans. The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics fully backs this dramatic call for political and industry leadership for healthier animal husbandry in order to avoid the risk of slipping back into the pre-antibiotic era.
"This comprehensive report shows that we all must take responsibility for the antibiotic-resistance crisis. Doctors, vets, patients, farmers and consumers can all play their part. The role of politicians and regulators, however, is key to achieving real progress. If there was a cause for politicians to stand up and be counted, it is in backing every effort to avert this impending crisis of antibiotic resistance."