Revised standards: strengthened actions to contain AMR

Revised AMR standards
WOAH’s standards on AMR are key to facing today’s intersecting challenges linked to this growing threat. The complexity of the issue requires an overarching use of the One Health approach. Therefore, the standards on AMR have been expanded in scope to include companion animals, reinforce environmental safeguards and update recommendations of the list of antimicrobial agents of veterinary importance.

The use of antimicrobial drugs has allowed global health to make significant positive strides over the past years. However, widespread misuse of antimicrobials in humans, animals and plants dramatically contributes to the emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens. This poses a shared threat to human and animal health, with important repercussions on our interconnected ecosystems. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has started to spark an unprecedented global crisis and addressing this cross-sectorial challenge is more urgent than ever before. 

The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) is committed to protecting animal health and welfare including setting the standards for AMR for the animal health sector. Our standards and guidelines provide a framework for surveillance of use of antimicrobials and antimicrobial resistance, while also promoting the responsible use of antimicrobial products in animals.  

Every year at the General Session, WOAH’s International Standards go through a revision process following specific needs mainly raised by its 183 Members. Covering updates of different nature, the revision reflects the work of the Organisation in tackling complex issues, building consensus among Members and finding up-to-date solutions that are grounded in science and designed to benefit both animal and human health.   

The revision of the standard on AMR (chapter 6.10) during the 91st General Session was driven by WOAH Specialist Commissions with the support of the Working Group on AMR and covers three major aspects: enlarging the scope of standards to include companion animals, incorporating environmental safeguards and updating the recommendations of the WOAH list of antimicrobial agents of veterinary importance.

These changes draw on the growing needs that arise from today’s interconnected world. 

Firstly, the environmental dimensions of AMR tend to be routinely overlooked when considering the use of antimicrobials and AMR in animals. This year’s changes to chapter 6.10 reflect the need for a One Health approach when dealing with AMR. In fact, considering the potential environmental impact of antimicrobial use in animals is of critical importance. Either qualitative or quantitative, an environmental risk assessment should be conducted by the pharmaceutical industry when submitting applications for regulatory approval for veterinary medicinal products containing antimicrobial agents. Additionally, instructions should be provided by manufacturers to ensure the safe disposal of unused and expired veterinary products to avoid environmental contamination.  

In a world with over 1 billion companion animals worldwide, the culture of pet ownership in emerging economies has shifted, allowing for closer interactions between companion animals and humans. There is also growing evidence in literature about bidirectional transfer of resistant-pathogens, including through contact or sharing a contaminated environment. This called for a revision of the WOAH standards to raise the Members’ awareness on the need to extend their activities to promote responsible antimicrobial use in companion animals, and to consider these species also when reporting AMU data to ANIMUSE. Increasing awareness around risks and good practices among pet owners, in close collaboration with the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), is also vital. 

Last but not least, the Organisation provides specific recommendations on how to use in veterinary medicine of antimicrobial agents that are considered critically important for animal and human health.  As part of this ongoing effort, the WOAH list of antimicrobial agents of veterinary importance  updated to align its recommendations with the latest changes in categorisation criteria of the World Health Organisation (WHO); as such, phosphonic acid derivatives are now considered as critically important antimicrobials, together with colistin, fluoroquinolones and third and fourth generation cephalosporins. 

Together, this year’s changes to the standards on AMR are meant to create a pathway for a responsible antimicrobial use in different animal health contexts and settings.

This is an important step forward in the fight against the deadly threat of AMR. For many years there has been considerable interest in the appropriate use and stewardship of antimicrobials within the small animal community worldwide. Aligning this interest with the global standards and actions of WOAH is a crucial to unlocking the One Health potential.

Stephen Page, Member of the AMR Working Group.

At the end of this unanimous adoption, I would like to congratulate you on your commitment to One Health. We know that resistance to antimicrobials is a
cross-sectoral challenge… and we are proud that we continue to make progress in the animal health sector by adopting the updates on these standards
,” concludes WOAH Director General Dr Monique Eloit.