Fears mount over killer su­per­bugs

Kuwait Times - - Health -

ROME: Imag­ine a world where a small cut on your fin­ger or a rou­tine hip re­place­ment surgery could prove fa­tal. This is the fu­ture hu­man­ity is fac­ing un­less the use and abuse of an­tibi­otics is curbed in both hu­mans and an­i­mals, ex­perts have warned. “The world is run­ning out of an­timi­cro­bials,” said Maria He­lena Semedo, deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral at the UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO). “With­out global ac­tion, lives and liveli­hoods could be un­der threat.”

An­timi­cro­bials are drugs, in­clud­ing an­tibi­otics, that de­stroy dan­ger­ous pathogens and are es­sen­tial for hu­man and an­i­mal health and the pro­duc­tion of food. But in­fec­tions re­sis­tant to drugs due to their overuse could kill as many as 10 mil­lion peo­ple a year by 2050 - pos­ing the great­est threat to hu­man health, says the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion. The use of an­tibi­otics on farms in pop­u­lous na­tions such as China and In­dia is ex­pected to soar, and the more an­tibi­otics are given to an­i­mals the more likely drug-re­sis­tant bugs will af­fect peo­ple’s health.

The good news, ex­perts say, is that sim­ple steps can mit­i­gate the spread of an­timi­cro­bial re­sis­tance from an­i­mals to hu­mans. “It’s very costly to get new medicine on the mar­ket so we have to pre­serve the ones that we have, or we can do bet­ter on an­i­mal hus­bandry prac­tices and the en­vi­ron­ment,” said Juan Lubroth, FAO’s chief vet­eri­nary of­fi­cer. This means bet­ter nu­tri­tion, bet­ter san­i­ta­tion and bet­ter pro­ce­dures to pro­tect farms from pests and dis­eases - wash­ing hands and chang­ing shoes be­fore en­ter­ing a farm, buy­ing and sell­ing healthy an­i­mals and vac­ci­nat­ing them reg­u­larly.

These mea­sures could fend off dis­eases and re­duce the need to use an­tibi­otics, Lubroth told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion. Rais­ing aware­ness on the proper use of drugs and the dan­gers of mis­us­ing them is also vi­tal, said Tim Petersen, head of an­i­mal wel­fare at the Dan­ish Vet­eri­nary and Food Ad­min­is­tra­tion. “Only sick an­i­mals should be given an­tibi­otics,” he said. In 2010, when Den­mark set lim­its on how much an­timi­cro­bials pig farm­ers can use, aware­ness of drug re­sis­tance was very low, Petersen said. Since then, their use has fallen by a quar­ter with no neg­a­tive im­pact on pro­duc­tiv­ity, he said.

The an­i­mal health in­dus­try is de­vel­op­ing so­lu­tions such as vac­ci­na­tions and an­i­malonly an­tibi­otics with the pri­vate sec­tor in the van­guard of in­no­va­tions, said Carel du Marchie Sar­vaas, head of the Brus­sels­based in­dus­try group Health­forAn­i­mals. “No gov­ern­ment is go­ing to come up with new an­tibi­otics or vac­cines, and no gov­ern­ment is go­ing to have the scale and scope,” du Marchie Sar­vaas said. This month, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion urged farm­ers to stop us­ing an­tibi­otics to pro­mote growth and pre­vent dis­ease in healthy an­i­mals be­cause the prac­tice fu­els dan­ger­ous dru­gre­sis­tant su­per­bug in­fec­tions in peo­ple.

The UN’s health body says the bulk of an­timi­cro­bials ad­min­is­tered world­wide are for an­i­mals, with around 80 per­cent of to­tal con­sump­tion of med­i­cally im­por­tant an­tibi­otics com­ing from the an­i­mal sec­tor in some coun­tries. But du Marchie Sar­vaas said there was not enough data to pin­point how and where the agri­cul­tural sec­tor is con­tribut­ing to an­timi­cro­bial re­sis­tance in hu­mans. “There’s no link ac­tu­ally shown yet in terms of how (cut­ting an­tibi­otic use in farm­ing) is re­duc­ing an­timi­cro­bial re­sis­tance in hu­mans,” he told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion. “Use in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor is likely con­tribut­ing to that but there’s ac­tu­ally lit­tle data of how that hap­pens.” — Reuters

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