18 November 2020, Rome – As antimicrobial resistance (AMR) drastically rises threatening to turn into the next pandemic with serious implications for global health, agri-food systems & economies, FAO is calling on actors across all sectors, from farmers to cooks, producers to consumers, to accelerate efforts to prevent the spread of drug-resistant microbes.
This World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18-24 November), the Organization highlights that everyone has a role to play to combat AMR, including stakeholders across the food & agriculture sectors, & rolls out recommendations to curb the spread of AMR.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of microbes to persist or grow in the presence of drugs designed to inhibit or kill them. The process is accelerated by the use of antimicrobials designed to kill unwanted pathogens in humans, animals & crops. In particular, the use of antimicrobials in human & animal health is fuelling resistance.
Currently, at least 700 000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases. More & more common diseases, including respiratory tract infections, sexually transmitted infections & urinary tract infections, are becoming harder to treat. Drug resistance is also increasingly threatening our agri-food systems & global food security.
COVID-19 has shown us that human, animal & environmental health are more interdependent than ever before. Pathogens affecting one area can exacerbate challenges in others & have an enormous impact on how we prevent & control health threats to safeguard the world. AMR is one of these global threats, & it is potentially even more dangerous than COVID-19. It is profoundly changing life as we know it.
“Just like the COVID-19 pandemic, AMR is no longer a future threat. It is happening here & now, & is affecting us all”, said Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo. “Around the world people, animals & plants are already dying of infections that cannot be treated – even with our strongest antimicrobial treatments. If AMR is left unchecked, the next pandemic we face could be bacterial & much deadlier if the drugs needed to treat it do not work”.
FAO’s work on AMR is implemented in coordination with WHO & OIE using a “One Health” approach.
AMR in food & agriculture
Food & agriculture sectors have a pivotal role to play in tackling AMR. In many parts of the world, antimicrobial use is far greater in animals than in humans, & it is rapidly increasing as our populations grow & global demand for food increases.
AMR is spreading quicker than scientists can develop new antimicrobials & is threatening global food systems, food security, food safety, health systems & economies. Our only solution is to take strategic action to keep the antimicrobials we have working. It is not too late, but time is running out to stop this devastation from worsening, FAO warned today.
On 23 November, the UN Agency will launch a new community of behaviour change practitioners to design solutions that make it easier for people to use antimicrobials appropriately & prevent disease effectively. Combining a wealth of insights from farmers & other food chain actors, veterinarians, epidemiologists, AMR experts & behavioural scientists, this community of practice will work together to ‘nudge’ behaviours at both farm & policy level – to help slow down the spread of AMR.
Activities & initiatives for World Antimicrobial Awareness Week will be taking place around the world, including a WAAW Africa Twitter Chat on ‘How can we improve awareness for antimicrobial resistance in Africa?’ on 21 November, a Brussels InfoPoint event for policy makers & the public to raise awareness on the urgency of tackling AMR on 24 November, & the Philippines will host an AMR One Health Summit & webinar series throughout the week.
Become an ally in the fight against AMR!
FAO outlined today actions for each group of key players that are critical in the fight against AMR:
1. Thoroughly wash your hands, shoes & clothing before & after contact with animals. This helps eliminate germs that make animals & people sick.
2. Keep animals healthy. Healthy animals need fewer antimicrobials, which means lower treatment costs, improved food & livelihood security & fewer animal deaths. When it comes to agriculture, farmers can take these steps to keep animals healthy:
• Keep animal housing & outside areas that animals use clean.
•Reduce the risk of spreading germs. Implement appropriate biosecurity measures.
•Practice “all-in & all-out” on your farm to reduce the risk of new animals infecting the animals you already have.
•Keep animal feed dry & stored safely away from rodents, birds, insects & other animals that can carry bacteria or other germs.
•Avoid stress for your animals.
•Help your animals stay healthy & avoid illness by ensuring they have good nutrition & clean water.
•Vaccinate! Ask your veterinary expert to help you administer important vaccines at the right times.
3. Seek animal health professional advice for the correct diagnosis & treatment, because using the wrong drug puts your animals, your family & you at risk of antimicrobial resistant infections.
4. Spread the word, not the microbes! Tell other farmers & community members what you have learned about why it is important to use antimicrobials responsibly.
5. Only use pesticides as a last resort: Pesticides are not the only solution. Only use pesticides on your plants as a last resort for controlling diseases.
Food chain workers & consumers:
1. Follow the ‘Four Cs’ of food safety to help reduce the spread of superbugs & microorganisms that could make people ill.
Cleaning – Wash your hands thoroughly before & after contact with food & livestock (especially after touching raw meat) & after using the toilet. Regularly clean surfaces that are used to prepare food.
Cooking – Cook food well to kill dangerous germs. Do not reheat food multiple times.
Chilling – Keep food chilled at the right temperature in the fridge & when being transported.
Cross contamination – Keep food preparation & storage areas clean to avoid cross contamination. Store & process raw meats separately from other foods.
2. Start conversations! Discuss AMR with your colleagues, family, friends & community. Encourage your workplace to develop & adopt measures that help reduce the spread of AMR.
3. Help keep antimicrobials working for everyone! Follow your doctor’s advice on whether you or your family need antibiotics. Always seek expert medical advice before taking antibiotics.
1. Make AMR a priority. Commit resources to tackling AMR & meeting national AMR action plan targets now. Ensure AMR is firmly on the political agenda.
2. Involve stakeholders in policy decisions: Involving stakeholders from all stages of the food chain & across public & private sectors will help develop more effective policies & legislation.
1. Support the Tripartite’s work on AMR: the AMR Multi-Partner Trust Fund, led by FAO, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) & World Health Organization (WHO), aims to scale up efforts to support countries in tackling AMR with a One Health approach. Support the Tripartite to expand this work to more countries & lead the fight against AMR.
2. Fill knowledge gaps: Support research & projects on AMR where evidence is lacking.
Health, agriculture, environment & veterinary educators & researchers:
1. Champion AMR as a key issue within your institutions: Make AMR a mandatory part of the curriculum. Lead cross-sectoral events & activities, including lectures, webinars & seminars to increase understanding of the spread of AMR across sectors.
2. Share knowledge across borders: Invite researchers from around the world to speak at your institutions & share ideas.
Young people & student groups:
1. Raise your voice! Champion AMR as a priority for your student groups & associations & lead awareness raising activities such as walks, talks & events within your communities.
2. Share examples of your activities: Share examples of your advocacy work on social media & with journalists. Inspire other groups to take action & become ‘AMR champions’.
Private sector stakeholders:
1. Support AMR action in the workplace: Provide facilities in your workplaces, factories & sites that make it easier for employees to take action against AMR.
2. Be a responsible manufacturer: Ensure that you & your suppliers are disposing of waste & wastewater correctly to help reduce the spread of superbugs.
NGOs & civil society groups:
1. Incorporate AMR actions into existing & new projects: Many actions to reduce the spread of superbugs have benefits for health, sanitation, disease control & waste management. These actions can be inexpensive to implement. Incorporate these into existing initiatives.
2. Create dialogue: Discuss AMR & superbugs with the communities in which you work, & raise awareness of the need to keep antimicrobials working.
Animal health professionals
1. Start conversations on good practices when treating animals with antimicrobial drugs: When visiting farms & dispensing medicines, discuss AMR & animal health with farmers to open a dialogue on the issue.
2. Be part of the AMR movement! Create, join & talk at animal health clubs, groups & meetings in your area. Share examples of your work in AMR to encourage others to become AMR champions.