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IPC - angry response to WHO antimicrobial guidelines

Concerns have been expressed by the International Poultry Council (IPC) about new guidelines issued this week by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that call on the global poultry and meat industries to stop the routine use of antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention.

The IPC says it is very worried that the WHO guidelines inappropriately tie the hands of producers and limit their options for using antimicrobials for prevention, control and treatment of diseases based on specific need.

Photo: Stephen Ausmus / ARS
Photo: Stephen Ausmus / ARS

It argues that the ability of a trained veterinarian to prescribe the correct treatment at the right time is paramount for minimising antimicrobial use and ensuring a viable supply of healthy birds vital for a safe global food supply.

In a statement, the IPC added: “In developing guidelines that impact human and animal life, one would trust that “evidence” drives policy recommendations and not “associations” as done in this WHO approach. The guidelines are framed by an article published this week in the Lancet Planetary Health and, as WHO noted, is based on “low quality evidence” or in some instance “very low quality-evidence.”

“The IPC remained committed to a “one health” collaborative approach that balances the knowledge and scientific expertise of all stakeholders to ensure we act responsibly in using all antimicrobials – for human and for animal needs. The IPC encourages WHO to be more inclusive of the veterinary community in its work so its deep expertise can guide proper antimicrobial use and animal care.”

The IPC’s comments come seven months after it published its landmark Position Statement on Antimicrobial Use and Antimicrobial Stewardship Principles, which, it argues, charts a path for the global poultry industry to follow the responsible and efficacious use of antimicrobials in poultry production, based on scientific, evidence-based approach.

The WHO guidelines on use of medically important antimicrobials in food producing animals include:

• An overall reduction in use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals;

• Complete restriction of use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals for growth promotion;

• Complete restriction of use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals for prevention of infectious diseases that have not yet been clinically diagnosed;

• Antimicrobials classified as critically important for human medicine should not be used for control of the dissemination of a clinically diagnosed infectious disease identified within a group of food-producing animals.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, said: “A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak. Strong, sustained action across all sectors is vital if we are to turn back the tide of antimicrobial resistance and keep the world safe.”

Dr Kazuaki Miyagishima, director of the Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses at WHO, added: “Scientific evidence demonstrates that overuse of antibiotics in animals can contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistance.

“The volume of antibiotics used in animals is continuing to increase worldwide, driven by a growing demand for foods of animal origin, often produced through intensive animal husbandry,” he added.


  • David Burch

    Surely, the WHO have shot themselves in the foot by published recommendations based on low or very low quality evidence? My own work using disease incidence and resistance transfer models suggests that transmission of resistance, in the more developed regions like the EU, of their critically important antibiotic resistance is very low. For poultry meat and eggs it is 0.01959% of cases, cattle meat and milk products 0.0036% and pig meat only 0.00025% cases. In total this is 0.02344% or 23.44 cases per 100,000 population compared with 36.43% or 36,430 people receiving antibiotics in the UK each year. No wonder there is low or very low evidence of a problem. Regards, David Burch

  • ahmet bilgin

    resistance to antibiotics is the results of wrong diagnosis and wrong application of drugs in humans . it is a fault of human doctors. ,

  • Tariq Mushtaq

    I agree with Ahmet. No regulations on physician to use antibiotics in humans but they are before poultry.

  • Benedicta Oyegun

    Even in correct diagnosis, wrong application will produce resistance strains of microbes.rather than restrictions based on low evidences, One Health should promote vigorous research to tackle these problems

  • Danielle Smeitink

    In the EU already part of the recommendations done by the WHO has been executed from 2006 onwards, maybe that explains the low amount of cases? However, if it is your beloved one in the hospital dying because of a resistant bacteria you don't care about high of low incidence numbers. I am not surprised the WHO is taking a stand. It may or not may be the best research used for support however, the use of antimicrobial growth promotors is unnecessary. Many alternatives are in the market, so that one is an easy tackle.

  • ankhan khan khan

    Seperation of different antibiotic salt for humane & poultry for growth promotion.

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