Although going in the right direction, farmers from 45 countries globally are still using antibiotics for growth promotion, according to a new animal health report.

Figures released in a new report by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) today (Thursday, February 14) show positive global progress on the regulation and monitoring of antimicrobial use in animals overall.

The report shows that the recorded use of antimicrobials for growth promotion has declined from 60 to 45 countries since the last round of data collection.

However, key antimicrobials, classified by the WHO as ‘Highest Priority Critically Important Antimicrobials’, including the drug colistin, continue to be used routinely in several regions for this purpose.

This practice puts at risk many of the medicines that we take for granted today, for both animals and humans, the OIE warns.

The development of a robust regulatory framework is a key component to protect and ensure responsible and prudent use of antimicrobial agents in animal health and production.

It is also a powerful instrument to phasing out their use as growth promoters, while recognising that voluntary approaches can be effective in certain countries.

The report shows positive progress; while 72 countries do not have a regulatory framework on the use of growth promotors, it is a decrease from the first database report in which 110 countries lacked such a framework, according to the organisation.

This decline suggests "critical progress in the implementation of regulations on the use of antimicrobial agents", according to the report.

Director general of the OIE, Dr. Monique Eloit said: "One of the OIE’s key recommendations is for countries to immediately phase out the use of critical antimicrobials for growth promotion.”

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation, added:

Many countries have already taken key actions, such as setting up surveillance systems and regulating the use of antimicrobials in human and animal health, but we still have a long way to go.

"Working together is the only way to avoid the huge human, social, economic and environmental costs of antimicrobial resistance.”

For many countries, the process of establishing data collection systems at national level is as important as the data itself, and it demonstrates their willingness to be engaged.

Thanks to the process, several barriers to the collection of quality data were better understood and identified, according to the OIE.

These include:

  • Inadequate structure and enforcement of regulatory frameworks for antimicrobial use;
  • Absence of adequate tools and human resources to facilitate the collection and analysis of data; and
  • Lack of coordination and collaboration between national authorities, and with the private sector.