The OIE report found that out of the 45 countries still using antibiotics as growth promoters 18 are in the Americas, 14 are in Asia and Oceania, 10 are in Africa, two are in Europe and one is in the Middle East. Some 27 of these countries have no policies on the use of antibiotics in animals – a situation the OIE said should be rectified.
Some 18 countries use bacitracin, which is on WHO’s “reserve” group of antibiotics, meaning that it is an antibiotic of last resort and of critical importance to human health. And 12 countries use colistin, also on WHO’s reserve list.
Some 17 countries use tylosin and 15 use virginiamycin – both of these are macrolides and are on WHO’s “watch” list. This group comprises antibiotics that are considered to have a high resistance potential and should only be used for certain conditions.
Earlier this month the Department of Health published a new strategy on antimicrobial resistance, pledging to cut the use of antibiotics by 15 per cent within six years.
At the launch of the strategy the chief medical officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: “The threat of antimicrobial resistance cannot be overstated – without intervention it is not an exaggeration to say that we could return to the dark ages of medicine.”
The OIE does not single out individual countries “to encourage participation” but a recent Telegraph investigation found that Zoetis, a US animal drugs manufacturer, was marketing antibiotics as growth promoters in India, despite the fact it stopped advertising these same products to farmers in the US two years ago. India is a signatory to the Chennai Declaration which aims to tackle antibiotic resistance.
The OIE report urged countries to phase out the use of antibiotics and put an immediate end to the use of critically important drugs.