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While the massive use of antimicrobials has taken place in human and animal health over recent decades, the world is confronting an accelerated increase in the emergence of antimicrobial resistance. Yet the discovery of new treatments is not enough to maintain the fight against bacteria, organisms responsible for often serious illnesses in people and animals.
Furthermore, globalisation of the trade in food products, together with traditional and medical tourism, is allowing existing or future resistant bacteria to colonise the entire planet with ease, whatever local preventive measures are applied. Risks taken by one country are thus liable to endanger the effectiveness and availability of antibiotics for the whole planet.
Antimicrobial resistance poses a worldwide health threat: its consequences, direct and indirect, can damage both human and animal health.
For those in the animal health sector, the use of veterinary medicinal products, including antimicrobial agents, is essential for the following reasons
For all these reasons, antimicrobial agents constitute a global public good, and protecting their efficacy remains crucial.
The OIE recommends policies enabling a basic veterinary network for effective animal health surveillance that ensures the early detection of potential animal diseases (including zoonoses) and rapid response to contain them at the site of the outbreak. This network also guarantees a general level of animal health, facilitating the sensible, appropriate and limited use of veterinary products and antibiotics.
The OIE advocates the responsible and prudent use of antimicrobial agents, under the supervision of veterinarians who have been well trained and well supervised by veterinary statutory bodies. In this context, the Organisation publishes intergovernmental standards, guidelines and recommendations aimed at the Veterinary Services of its Member Countries.
In many countries, including developed countries, antimicrobial agents are widely available to all, directly and indirectly, with hardly any restrictions on appropriate conditions for the importation, production, distribution and use of veterinary products, including antimicrobial agents. Thus, these products are circulating like ordinary goods, without controls, and are often adulterated.
Moreover, as yet there is no harmonised surveillance system to monitor the use and circulation of antimicrobial agents in animals worldwide. Collecting this information would enable countries to better control the quality and effectiveness of the products being used. It is in this context that the OIE has been mandated by its Member Countries to collect this missing information and establish a worldwide database to monitor the use of antimicrobial agents in animals. This database, which will eventually be linked to the OIE World Animal Health Information System (WAHIS), will make it easier to analyse and control the source of imported medicines, improving their traceability by OIE Member Countries.
The OIE supports new research into alternatives to antibiotics (notably vaccines) and particularly welcomed an international symposium on the subject in 2012, organised by the International Alliance for Biological Standardization (IABS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).