'Curb antibiotics use on animals to stop rise of superbugs'
Farmers should stop using antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease in healthy animals, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
The new guidance is aimed at curbing the "unnecessary" use of antibiotics on farms worldwide, which is said to be contributing to the rise of resistant superbugs.
In some countries an estimated 80pc of all consumption of medically important antibiotics is taken up by animals, largely to increase the growth of livestock such as pigs and cows, according to the WHO.
The drugs are not used for growth promotion in the UK, which like other European Union member states banned their use for this purpose in 2006.
But the large-scale use of antibiotics to prevent disease in farm animals continues to raise concerns in the EU.
A 2016 report from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said use of "critically important" antibiotics had risen to record levels on European farms.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, said: "A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak.
"Strong, sustained action across all sectors is vital if we are to turn back the tide of antimicrobial resistance and keep the world safe."
The new recommendations follow a review published in journal 'The Lancet Planetary Health', demonstrating the potential impact of restricting antibiotic use in farm livestock.
Such measures could potentially reduce antibiotic-resistant bacteria in farm animals by up to 39pc, the research showed.
Healthy animals should only receive antibiotics to prevent disease that has been diagnosed in other animals from the same flock, herd or fish population, said the WHO.
Where possible, sick animals should be tested to determine the most effective treatment for their specific infection.
Antibiotics used on animals should be those listed by the WHO as "least important" to human health and not from those classified as "highest priority".