Policy makers and health experts are now rolling out national health plans to promote more responsible use of antimicrobial medicines prescribed to combat disease in both humans and animals. Part of the philosophy is that preventing infections is more sustainable than curing infections with antibiotics.

"When the decision is reached to use antimicrobials for therapy, veterinarians should strive to optimize therapeutic efficacy and minimize resistance to antimicrobials to protect public and animal health.

American Veterinary Medical Association - US

Antibiotic ‘misuse’ was underlined at a global level in 2001, when the WHO linked AMR with the ‘inappropriate use’ of antibiotics e.g. prescribing shortened courses of treatment or sub-optimal doses.

In 2003, an expert panel comprising the World Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and World Health Organisation recommended that the WHO and OIE develop a list of critically important antimicrobial medicines for humans and animals respectively.

The WHO list for humans was officially released in 2007, and is regularly updated to ensure that modern medicine’s most effective treatments remained available for as long as possible.

The ‘critically important’ drugs are split into the following classes.

  • Quinolones
  • 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins
  • Macrolides
  • Glycopeptides

The drugs on the critical list include drugs pertinent to both human and animal medicine. But, while the drugs and the microbes they treat have similarities across humans and animal species, the effect that livestock production is having on human antimicrobial resistance and infection commands great debate.

Antimicrobial Resistance