Health Experts Warn of Overuse ofAntimicrobials
From VOA Learning English, this is the Healthand Lifestyle report.
For today's report, we talk about the dangers, not ofan illness, but of medicines -- antimicrobialmedicines。 Health experts are more and more concerned about the overuse of antimicrobials。 Agrowing number of bacteria and other disease-causing organisms are developing resistance tothese drugs。
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says the growing resistance is athreat to people and animals alike.
The FAO recently noted an "increased use and abuse of antimicrobial medicines in both humanand animal healthcare." It said their use and abuse has led to a growing number of disease-causing microbes that are resistant to traditional medicines.
FAO officials say this can be seen, for example, in multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. Theproblem is so serious that U.N. officials called a high-level meeting to consider the dangers ofantimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial resistance is also called AMR.
But just how widespread is antimicrobial use?
"We don't really know how much of the antimicrobials, including antibiotics, are being used infood and agriculture."
Juan Lubroth is an expert on animal health。 He serves as the Chief Veterinary Officer for theFAO。 He says there are many unanswered questions about the manufacturing and marketing ofantimicrobial drugs。
"In fact, we don't really know how much is being made. Who is buying? Who is selling? Howmuch is the international traffic, either as drugs ready to be used or the active ingredientinside a drug that is then formulated someplace else?"
Doctor Lubroth says the overuse of antibiotics involves everything: humans, animals andagriculture get caught in what he calls a cycle of disease transmission。
"We can get sick. They can get sick. They can die. They need the antibiotics to be given in aproper way so they can recover. So, it's not only about food and agriculture. It's also about ourdogs and cats, our mascots."
Misuse of antimicrobials includes failing to follow directions and possibly taking someone else'smedicine. Lubroth admits that even he has misused antibiotics.
"Even I'm guilty. My physician may have given me antibiotics to take for the course of aweek, seven days, and I stopped at day six. Well, that's bad. That's not good. That's a misuseof the antibiotics."
Failure to follow directions when taking medicine is one way germs can develop a resistance toa drug.
The FAO says that antimicrobial medicines are critical in the treatment of farm animals andplants。 "Their use," it says, "is essential to food security, human well-being and animalwelfare。"
Lubroth says the Food and Agriculture Organization has developed a four-part action plan forantimicrobial resistance.
"One is to create the awareness among the general public of the issue. Two would be to havethe evidence. Have the surveillance in place that I can monitor when the antimicrobialresistance appears, and I report it in a timely fashion..."
The action plan calls for strengthening governmental agencies that deal with public health, foodand agriculture. It also calls for sharing of information with each other and with medical experts.
Another part of the plan is to provide support for good practices in food and agriculturalsystems and the effective use of antimicrobials. Such drugs are often used in small amounts inanimal feed to support growth. Once in farm animals, they become part of the food chain.
"I think that the consumers should be empowered to really push their governments or theirfood providers that they want safe food -- wholesome food. I think we can all agree on that.We may disagree on some of the specifics of how to get there, but I think that the consumerand the voice of the consumer has to be heard."
Lubroth says "the long-term consequences of not being able to use an antimicrobials becauseof resistance" would be terrible. He adds that the medicines bring a "global public good to theplanet."
I'm Anna Matteo.
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