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How bad is antimicrobial Resistance in livestock?

Do you know that when you eat meat, you also eat the antimicrobials?

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in livestock is a growing concern that poses significant risks to public health, animal welfare, and the economy. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been at the forefront of addressing this issue, emphasizing the urgent need for global action. According to the FAO, the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials in animal husbandry are major factors contributing to the emergence and spread of AMR. This resistance can transfer from animals to humans through direct contact, the food chain, and the environment, leading to infections that are difficult, if not impossible, to treat with existing antibiotics.

The economic impact of AMR is staggering, with a potential cost of $100 trillion globally by 2050 if effective measures are not implemented. In livestock, the use of antimicrobials is essential for treating diseases and protecting animal health; however, it is crucial to distinguish between therapeutic and non-therapeutic uses. Therapeutic use involves treating infected or sick animals, while non-therapeutic use includes growth promotion and disease prevention at sub-therapeutic levels.

The FAO's Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance 2021–2025 outlines strategies to combat AMR, including improving surveillance and data collection, promoting responsible use of antimicrobials, and supporting research into alternative treatments. The organization also facilitates knowledge dissemination through webinars and publications, aiming to catalyze a global movement against AMR.

One of the key challenges is reducing antimicrobial use while maintaining animal health and productivity. The FAO advocates for a variety of options to minimize antimicrobial use, such as implementing good animal husbandry practices, vaccination, and biosecurity measures. These practices can help reduce the reliance on antimicrobials and lower the risk of resistance development.

In 2019, 5 million human deaths were associated with bacterial AMR, including 1.3 million directly attributable to it. The livestock sector reported using 27 different antimicrobial classes, with a total global animal health market worth $22 billion in 2011. Between 2015 and 2017, 118 countries provided quantitative data on antimicrobial use in animals, an increase from 89 in 2015.

The FAO also emphasizes the importance of a One Health approach, which recognizes the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. This approach is crucial for understanding and addressing the complex pathways through which AMR can spread. By working collaboratively across sectors and disciplines, it is possible to develop more effective strategies to mitigate the risks of AMR.

In conclusion, antimicrobial resistance in livestock is a multifaceted problem that requires a concerted global effort to manage. The FAO's initiatives and guidelines provide a framework for action, but it is imperative that all stakeholders, including governments, the agricultural industry, and the public, work together to promote responsible antimicrobial use and invest in alternative solutions. The future of public health, animal welfare, and the global economy depends on our ability to control the spread of AMR. For more detailed information and resources on this topic, the FAO website offers a wealth of knowledge and guidance.

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