Antimicrobial Resistance in Livestock: The Invisible Threat
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) doesn’t spark headline-catching outbreaks or massive die-offs like many livestock diseases. It is insidious, incremental, and incredibly dangerous because of its implications for the future health of both animal and human populations.
Antimicrobial resistance involves changes to the genetic makeup of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that mute or negate the effects of medication intended to treat disease. It is a natural survival mechanism for microbes, but it has been accelerated and amplified by human actions. Indiscriminate and inappropriate use of antimicrobial medications in both human and animal medicine is driving rapid emergence and spread of resistant pathogens. Antimicrobial resistance significantly hinders our ability to prevent and contain livestock disease, subsequently increasing production costs, decreasing market yields, and reducing the available supply of safe, nutritious animal-source food.
Resistance linked to livestock losses
An 11 percent loss in global livestock production due to antimicrobial resistance is projected by 2050, and 24 million people in low-income countries could be forced into extreme poverty from the economic effects of antimicrobial resistance by 2030, according to a World Bank Group report. In a developing world already challenged with achieving food security, decreases in livestock production in the face of a rising population will significantly degrade efforts to achieve the objectives of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and the U.S. Government’s Global Food Security Strategy. Reducing antimicrobial resistance in livestock will promote food security, support sustainable and economically viable agricultural practices, and protect human health in vulnerable populations.
Opportunities to address antimicrobial resistance in livestock are summarized in the attached USAID fact sheet and will be detailed in depth in the forthcoming USAID Technical Brief on Combatting AMR in Livestock.