Antibiotic resistance poses threat to global development efforts

11 Feb 16

Efforts to eliminate poverty and food insecurity could be undermined unless international action is taken to counter the threat posed by antibiotic resistance, the chief of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has warned.


Speaking to European ministers of health and agriculture at a conference on antimicrobial resistance in Amsterdam, FAO director-general Helena Semedo said a global, coordinated effort was needed to counter the risks posed by the overuse and misuse of antibiotics.

“We have to help save life-saving drugs,” she said, noting that, aside from the human health considerations, the emergence of microbes resistant to bacteria and other pharmaceutical agents puts animals at risk, affecting rural livelihoods and food security.

“How can we eliminate hunger or improve sustainability when we cannot cure sick animals?” she said. “How can we reduce rural poverty when the drugs given to ill farm workers no longer have effect?”

Antibiotics and antimicrobial agents are used in livestock farming and often on plants instead of pesticides.

While resistance develops as part of a microbe’s natural adaptation it is exacerbated by the overuse and misuse of antimicrobial agents, often fostering resistance among the infections and disease the agents were designed to quell.

Semedo said this risks reversing half a century of progress in human and animal health and called for measures to reduce the overuse of antibiotics and strengthen legislation, surveillance, prevention and monitoring.

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