Regulations seek to limit livestock antibiotic use

By 2050, deaths attributed to antimicrobial resistance will approach 10 million annually, warns health minister

OTTAWA — Resistance to common antimicrobial drugs could one day cause more deaths than cancer, says Canada’s minister of health.

“Antimicrobial resistance is among the most serious of global public health threats that we are facing,” Jane Philpott told those attending the Canadian Meat Council annual meeting in Ottawa Sept. 27-29.

In the past year, 700,000 deaths worldwide have been linked to antimicrobial resistance, which occurs when medical treatments for infections fail. This happens when harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi develop resistance to medicines that previously were used as effective treatments.

“The death toll from diseases that are currently treatable but won’t be treatable in the year 2050 will be in the order of 10 million deaths per year attributed to antimicrobial resistance,” she said.

Health Canada has adopted new regulations and formed what it calls a “One Health” approach to co-ordinate efforts across human medicine and animal health to help slow and control resistance.

“These regulatory changes are intended to complement policy work that has been under way at Health Canada, CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) and stakeholders,” she said.

The preamble to the regulations said overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in animals contributes to the development and spread of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens, which can pose serious risks to human health when transmitted as food-borne or water-borne contaminants.

The regulations require more veterinary oversight, an end to claims that such drugs can be used to promote animal growth and more information on volume used by species. There will also be restrictions on the imports of certain unauthorized drugs for own-use purposes.

The United Nations through the World Health Organization has also committed to a co-ordinated approach to simultaneously deal with the problem in human medicine and animal agriculture.

The Food and Agriculture Organization and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) developed a blueprint to tackle the issue in 2015. The plan includes better monitoring of use in human and animal medicine, better tracking of drug resistant infections and promotion of alternatives to antimicrobials through new diagnosis technologies and vaccines.

The WHO said common infections, such as pneumonia, gonorrhea and post-operative infections, as well as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, are becoming less treatable because of the misuse of antibiotics and other antimicrobials.

About the author


Stories from our other publications