WHO Guidelines on Use of Medically Important Antimicrobials in Food-Producing Animals

The World Health Organization released new guidelines on the use of ‘medically important antimicrobials’ in food animals. Here’s a list of their recommendations, along with the strength of recommendation and quality of evidence.

  1. We recommend an overall reduction in use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals (Strong recommendation, low quality evidence)
  2. We recommend complete restriction of use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals for growth promotion (Strong recommendation, low quality evidence)
  3. We recommend complete restriction of use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals for prevention of infectious diseases that have not yet been clinically diagnosed (Strong recommendation, low quality evidence)
  4. We suggest that antimicrobials classified as critically important for human medicine should not be used for control of the dissemination of a clinically diagnosed infectious disease identified within a group of food-producing animals (Conditional recommendation, very low quality evidence)
  5. We suggest that antimicrobials classified as highest priority critically important for human medicine should not be used for treatment of food-producing animals with a clinically diagnosed infectious disease (Conditional recommendation, very low quality evidence).

They included 2 “Best Practices statements

  1. Any new class of antimicrobials or new antimicrobial combination developed for use in humans will be considered critically important for human medicine unless categorized otherwise by WHO. 
  2. Medically important antimicrobials that are not currently used in food production should not be used in the future in food production including in food-producing animals or plants.

One thing that stands out is the low quality of evidence. That doesn’t mean recommendations shouldn’t be made. Important decisions sometimes have to be made before the evidence is solid. However, we need to make sure the evidence follows. Much of what’s stated above is common sense, to a degree; however, sometimes things that make sense don’t actually turn out to be completely true. That’s one of the reasons CANresist is being developed, to help get the evidence and help translate both best practice and evidence based guidelines into action.

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Reducing Antibiotic Use in Dairy Calves

This topic’s huge, and there’s always a risk of trying to oversimplify the problem or solutions.

However, some solutions for some issues might be fairly straightforward. Whether it’s on a farm, in a hospital or in a doctors office, there are situations where I think it’s widely accepted we don’t need to use antibiotics, yet for various reasons they still get used. Getting over those barriers sometimes requires a combination of medicine, behavioural science, communications, psychology, economics and a range of other fields. Sometimes, though, the answer seems fairly simple.

A paper published in The Veterinary Journal showed how use of a simple treatment algorithm designed to be used by farmers results in an 80% reduction in antibiotic use in diarrheic dairy calves, with no impact on calf health.

That’s just one condition in one species, but it shows that there are some “low hanging fruit” that we might be able to pick.

Reference: DE Gomez, LG Arroyo, Z Poljak, L Viel, JS Weese. Implementation of an algorithm for selection of antimicrobial therapy for diarrhoeic calves: impact on antimicrobial treatment rates, health and faecal microbiota.

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As World Antibiotic Awareness Week approaches, think about these miracle drugs and how they have changed our lives.

If you’re a prescriber, think about the last patient you treated and what would have happened without effective antibiotics.

Think about the last time you or a loved one was treated with an antibiotic and how important it was

Let us know on Twitter (@CANADAresist) #mylastantibiotic


CANresist Blog

Why CANresist?

That’s why.

Our vision:

  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the global health crisis of our time. Canadians depend on effective antibiotics for their health and safety. Because of AMR, the miracles of safe childbirth, artificial joints, routine surgery, transplantation, and cancer therapy are all at risk. Antimicrobials play parallel roles in animal health, being important for the health and welfare of companion and farm animals, and facilitating humane, safe and economically viable food production, to help assure food security for Canadians and maintain and develop export markets.
  • Our vision is to prevent the wholesale disruption of our health care system from unchecked AMR and preserve the miracle of antimicrobial therapy for future generations of Canadians.