World leaders and experts called for global action to reduce antimicrobial pollution recognising this as critical to combatting rising levels of drug resistance and protecting the environment. (ref: World Health Organization).

Antimicrobial drug waste is polluting the environment

The Global Leaders Group’s call to action calls for all countries to improve measures for the management and disposal of antimicrobial-containing waste and runoff from manufacturing sites, farms, hospitals and other sources.

Antimicrobials given to humans, animals and plants are entering the environment and water sources (including drinking water sources) via wastewater, waste, run-off, and sewage and through this spreading drug-resistant organisms and antimicrobial resistance.

This could fuel a rise in the emergence and spread of ‘superbugs’ that are resistant to several types of antimicrobial drugs. It could also harm organisms in the environment.

Reducing the amount of antimicrobial pollution entering the environment is crucial to conserving the effectiveness of antimicrobial medicines 

The Global Leaders Group calls for all countries to develop and implement regulations and standards to better monitor and control the distribution and release of antimicrobials and drug-resistant organisms into the environment.

Other key actions include:

  1. In the manufacturing sector – developing national antimicrobial manufacturing pollution standards to better control and monitor antimicrobial pollution.
  2. In the human and animal health sector – enforcing laws and policies to reduce or eliminate antimicrobial use that is not under the guidance of a trained healthcare provider.
  3. In food systems – implementing standards to treat and manage discharge from food-animal farms, aquaculture farms and crop fields.

Inaction will have dire consequences for human, animal, plant and environmental health

Antimicrobial drugs, including antibiotics, antifungals and antiparasitics, are used in human and veterinary medicine all over the world. They are used to treat and prevent diseases in humans and animals, and sometimes in food production to promote growth in healthy animals. Antimicrobial pesticides are also used in agriculture to treat and prevent diseases in plants.

Current antimicrobial drug usage in humans, animals and plants is leading to a concerning rise in drug resistance and making infections harder to treat.

Drug-resistant microbes and disease-causing pathogens can pass between humans, animals, plants and food, and in the environment.

The climate crisis may also be contributing to a rise in antimicrobial resistance. [2]

Drug-resistant diseases contribute to nearly 5 million deaths every year. Urgent action is needed to curb the rise and spread of antimicrobial resistance across all countries. Without action, the world is rapidly approaching a tipping point where the antimicrobials needed to treat infections in humans, animals and plants will no longer be effective.

The impact on local and global health systems, economies, food security and food systems will be devastating.

The connections between antimicrobial resistance, environmental health and the climate crisis are becoming increasingly stark. says co-chair of the Global Leader Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, Her Excellency Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of BarbadosWe must act now to protect the environment, and people everywhere, from the damaging effects of antimicrobial pollution.’’

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