Antimicrobial medicines, including antibiotics, have long been overused and misused, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which added that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is “spreading further and faster every day”.  

AMR happening now 

Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections, explained the World Health Organization (WHO), and are included in the more encompassing term of antimicrobials. 

While bacteria, not humans or animals, become antimicrobial-resistant, they may infect humans and animals, and the infections they cause are harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria. 

FAO maintains that if left unaddressed, AMR may force tens of millions more people into extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition. 

“Just like the COVID-19 pandemic, AMR is no longer a future threat”, said FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo. “It is happening here and now, and it is affecting us all”. 

Ripple impacts 

The World Health Organization (WHO) stressed that antimicrobial resistance makes common infections harder to treat and accelerating the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. 

AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines, posing a global health and development threat. 

The overuse of medicines in humans, livestock and agriculture, as well as poor access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene are some of the factors that have accelerated the AMR threat worldwide, according to WHO. 

FAO added that a lack of AMR regulation and oversight, the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animals, and over-the-counter or internet sales that have sparked a boom in counterfeit or poor-quality antimicrobials are also reasons. 

“Around the world people, animals and plants are already dying of infections that cannot be treated – even with our strongest antimicrobial treatments”, stated Ms. Semedo.  

Threatening modern medicine 

WHO has declared AMR as one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.