New publication on “Water, sanitation, hygiene and wastewater management to prevent infections and reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance”
The world is facing high rates of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the capacity of microorganisms to resist medicines used to treat infections. This is a major global threat of increasing concern to human and animal health, especially in the shadow of the COVID-19 global health crisis. AMR has indeed implications on food safety, food security and the economic well-being of millions of households around the world.
Antimicrobial-resistant microbes that can cause infections (pathogens), along with antimicrobials themselves, can be present in the environment. Contamination of the environment with animal and fish waste containing antimicrobial residue can persist and travel (spread). For example, bodies of water can act as reservoirs, a place where microbes can adapt, grow, and multiply without hindrance, creating an environment in which resistant strains can thrive. If antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are present in environmental and irrigation waters, then people exposed to the water can be at increased risk of infection.
Food can become contaminated with antimicrobial resistant bacteria and their gene fragments anywhere along the food chain. From primary production to consumption, both conventionally and organically produced products are potentially vulnerable to contamination with antimicrobial resistant organisms.
The role of the environment, specifically water, sanitation and hygiene factors, contributing to the development of resistant pathogens is still underestimated. Understanding these elements is key to identifying pre-harvesting interactions to reduce and stop the spread of resistance and diseases from the environment into the food chain. FAO, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has developed a new Technical Brief on “Water, sanitation, hygiene and wastewater management to prevent infections and reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance” to provide a summary of evidence and rationale for actions to support governments in developing specific policy to combat AMR.