UN antimicrobial resistance report – immediate global action needed to divert crisis

New Zealand is a low user of antimicrobials in animals, but needs to join intensive efforts required to overcome resistance to these vital medicines. Resistance is not only a human health issue. Antimicrobials are used to treat a variety of bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic diseases – in people, animals and plants.

Our farmers and the food industry don’t use antibiotics unnecessarily or routinely to promote growth and prevent disease in healthy animals. This helps preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics that are important for human medicine. In some countries, approximately 80 percent of total consumption of medically important antibiotics is in the animal sector, largely for growth promotion in healthy animals.

Over-use and misuse of antibiotics in animals and humans is contributing to the rising threat of antibiotic resistance. Some types of bacteria that cause serious infections in humans have already developed resistance to most or all of the available treatments, and there are very few promising options in the research pipeline.

Improving antibiotic prescribing and use is critical to ensure that bacteria don’t become resistant to antibiotics. Prescribers should only treat people and animals with antibiotics when they need them for medically sound reasons.

UN, international agencies and experts recently released a ground-breaking report demanding immediate, coordinated and ambitious action to avert a potentially disastrous crisis.

The world is already feeling the economic and health consequences as crucial medicines become ineffective, claims the UN Interagency Coordinating Group (IACG) on Antimicrobial Resistance who released the report, ‘No Time to Wait: Securing the future from drug-resistant infections’. Without investment from countries in all income brackets, future generations will face the disastrous impacts of uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance.

Concrete recommendations for industry, government and academia are outlined in the report – including increasing funding, prioritising action plans and researching new technologies. This extends to supporting awareness of the prudent use of antimicrobials by professionals in human, animal and plant health.

An Antibiotic Sales Analysis report, released by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) in November 2018, suggests that prudent use of antibiotics and good antibiotic stewardship is occurring in New Zealand. This is demonstrated by a reduction in the use of antibiotics that are considered to be critically important to human health, in proportion to increasing animal numbers.

Although New Zealand is a low user of antimicrobials in animals, it’s critical that our government support MPI to make resistance management a priority.  We need to ensure that we keep monitoring and researching resistance issues.

It will be disappointing if there is no Government funding dedicated to MPI for antimicrobial resistance management, surveillance and research within New Zealand in the upcoming 2019 budget. We are at a critical point in facing this global challenge to public health, animal health and welfare, and food security. We must all play our part in maintaining access to and efficacy of these essential medicines.

Antibiotics must be part of a broader approach to managing disease – including good animal husbandry, biosecurity and preventative health programmes such as vaccinations – to reduce the need for antibiotics.

“Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats we face as a global community. This report reflects the depth and scope of the response needed to curb its rise and protect a century of progress in health,” says UN Deputy Secretary-General and Co-Chair of the IACG, Ms Amina Mohammed. “It rightly emphasises that there is no time to wait and I urge all stakeholders to act on its recommendations and work urgently to protect our people and planet and secure a sustainable future for all.”

The report, ‘No Time to Wait: Securing the future from drug-resistant infections’ can be found at

https://www.who.int/antimicrobial-resistance/interagency-coordination-group/final-report/en/