New report reveals global decrease in antimicrobial use in animals

Global antimicrobial use in animals has declined by 13% in 3 years.

September 11, 2023

2 Min Read

Global antimicrobial use in animals has declined by 13% in 3 years, marking again a significant shift in the continuous efforts to preserve the efficacy of these critical medicines, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH).

Antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, paved the way for better living conditions for humans and animals. Prior to the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928, infections due to minor cuts could lead to bloodstream infections or death. In recent years, these life-saving drugs have been losing their efficacy, known as “antimicrobial resistance,” due to misuse or overuse in different sectors.

In this context, monitoring how, when and which antimicrobials are used becomes critical to identify patterns and trends, WOAH. This can facilitate decision-making and support the implementation of measures to ensure an optimal and sustainable use of these key medicines. 

As the global authority on animal health, WOAH has been collecting information on the use of antimicrobials in animals since 2015. A report has been published every year to provide access to this crucial and growing set of information and has highlighted steady efforts in the animal health sector worldwide. For instance, the latest report, showcases a decline in the use of antimicrobials considered to be of critical importance for human health. 

Less than 20% of antimicrobials used in animals in 2019 were of highest priority and critical importance for human health. Collective efforts towards responsible use across all sectors are of utmost importance considering that these medicines are the sole therapy or one of few alternatives to treat life-threatening human diseases. WOAH said it is important to highlight that, in the same year, an estimated 4 million human deaths were linked to antimicrobial resistance.

“Going further in the fight against this threat to global health, WOAH has recently fully digitalized its global database into an online platform: ANIMUSE,” said Dr. Javier Yugueros-Marcos, head of WOAH’s antimicrobial resistance and veterinary products department. “This new system facilitates open access to global and regional data in an interactive way, while also featuring easier reporting, error checks, and data visualization tools for members providing the information.”

A key strength of ANIMUSE is its flexibility. Countries at any level of their surveillance program can report on the platform. Even if a country’s insight on amounts of antimicrobials used in animals is limited, being able to join the platform fosters discussion and improvement over time.

“In a world where the development of a new antibiotic demands over a decade of dedicated effort and an investment of 1 billion dollars, it becomes everyone’s responsibility to make sure that our current antibiotic arsenal remains effective for generations to come,” said Dr. Carolee Carlson, veterinarian and epidemiologist for the Public Health Agency of Canada. “The global health community must continue to champion this cause to safeguard tomorrow’s health.”

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