International paper signals support for reducing antibiotics in livestock

By Keith Nuthall

- Last updated on GMT

A report is calling for the reduction of antibiotic use in livestock
A report is calling for the reduction of antibiotic use in livestock
A paper released to a global symposium on preventing antibiotic resistance has signalled that international action should include restricting the prophylactic treatment of livestock with such medicines.

The report, entitled ‘How to Foster Innovation, Access and Appropriate Use of Antibiotics?’, was presented at a Joint Symposium, held in Geneva on 24 October, organised by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

It said: “While access to effective antimicrobials is a prerequisite for productive and sustainable agriculture, in particular in relation to animal husbandry, antibiotics have to be used with more responsibility. Therefore, effective stewardship in tackling antimicrobial resistance requires a global multidisciplinary collaborative effort across industries.”

Such efforts are under development via the WHO Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance, adopted in 2015. This called for a comprehensive approach so that resistance-busting efforts are coordinated to maximise synergies. It has five strategic objectives: improving awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance; strengthening knowledge through surveillance and research; reducing the incidence of infection; optimising the use of antimicrobial agents; developing an economic case for sustainable investment in these strategies; and boosting investment in new medicines, diagnostic tools, vaccines and other health interventions.

Speaking at the conference, Monique Eloit, director general, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), hailed the effective coordination on the topic between her organisation, the WTO and the WHO. This has helped produce a united response to the problem, she said, which was important given that 200 countries often have divergent views on the best way to proceed. “The international action plan is now very comprehensive,”​ she said, adding she was “convinced”​ that potential meat trading problems related to antimicrobial resistance, would be solved.

But the report stressed that the problem has continued to grow. The antibiotic Colistin, which has been used as an antibiotic of last resort against superbugs with resistance to most antibiotics, is widely used in Chinese livestock, stressed the paper, “which has likely led the bacteria to evolve, gain resistance and transmit from livestock to humans through food”​. It noted that this resistant bacteria strain had been reported earlier this year in the USA and Europe: “This example shows that antimicrobial resistance cannot be tackled in isolation by individual countries but needs global cooperation.”

Moreover, the resistance of E.coli bacteria – sometimes a meat contaminant – to third-generation cephalosporin antibiotics increased from 70% to 83% in India between 2008 and 2013, said the report. “This illustrates the increasing burden of antibiotic resistance in developing countries,”​ it noted.

The report suggested that global efforts to rein in antibiotic use in livestock could be compliant with WTO Agreements on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), or the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS). Both agreements allow WTO members to protect human health or the environment through trade measures, such as banning meat with antibiotic residues. However, stressed the report, the agreements say such jurisdictions must base any trade restrictive measures on international standards, guidelines or recommendations where applicable, including for animal husbandry.

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