AMR Awareness Week: Tackling antimicrobial resistance in agrifood systems through a One Health approach

Adopting a whole-of-society and multi-sectoral approach is essential to address AMR effectively

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major global threat to humans, animals, plants and the environment.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations plays a pivotal role in facilitating responsible antimicrobial use in the food and agriculture sector. By collaborating with governments, producers, traders and various stakeholders, FAO actively contributes to increasing capacities in managing AMR and building resilience to its impacts in agrifood systems.

As a multidisciplinary organisation, FAO leads the global response to AMR in the food and agriculture sectors. Its work, currently guided by the FAO Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance 2021-2025, aims to address the various challenges AMR poses. This action plan sets out the five objectives that guide the programming of FAO activities:

    1. Increasing stakeholder awareness and engagement

    1. Strengthening surveillance and research

    1. Enabling good practices

    1. Promoting responsible use of antimicrobials

    1. Strengthening governance and allocating resources sustainably

The FAO Action Plan is designed to support the Global Action Plan on AMR, emphasising a coordinated and multi-sectoral One Health response. This approach acknowledges the interconnectedness of human, animal, plant and environmental health.

FAO collaborates closely with key partners, including the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Health Organization and the World Organisation for Animal Health, forming a quadripartite collaboration.

The partnership addresses shared challenges and opportunities in addressing AMR across various policy and technical areas.

Strengthening surveillance

To bolster a country’s capacity for surveillance and monitoring of antimicrobial resistance and use in food and agriculture, FAO advocates for a standardised approach to data collection, analysis, interpretation and sharing.

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Despite worldwide initiatives generating AMR surveillance data, challenges persist due to insufficient data management systems, unclear roles and responsibilities in data reporting and a shortage of trained experts for analysis and interpretation.

In response, FAO committed to establishing a comprehensive global epidemiological information system for regularly collecting and analysing reliable and comparable data on AMR within the food and agriculture sectors.

In pursuit of this commitment, FAO embarked on the development of the International FAO Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring (InFARM) System. As of December 2022, FAO has successfully completed the development of a beta version of the InFARM IT platform, which was subsequently made available for pilot testing in a select number of countries until March 2023.

During this pilot phase, users have provided invaluable feedback, which FAO actively incorporates into the final stages of IT development. In anticipation of the following steps, FAO plans to launch a global call for AMR data in the first quarter of 2024.

The InFARM IT platform and system are designed to aid countries in gathering, analysing and effectively utilising their AMR data within the domains of food and agriculture, all geared towards national objectives.

Initially, InFARM will focus on hosting AMR data from priority bacterial species significant to public health, animal health and indicator bacteria from animals and food sources.

Implementing InFARM will adhere to international standards and recommendations set forth by the Codex Alimentarius and WOAH. The IT system will support countries that are eager to share their AMR data for global surveillance purposes, also serving as the conduit for integrating data from the food and agriculture sectors into the Quadripartite Global Integrated System for Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance and Antimicrobial Usage.

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Reducing need for antimicrobials in agrifood systems

FAO is also launching an action-oriented 10-year global initiative called Reduce the Need for Antimicrobials in Agrifood systems (RENOFARM). The initiative involves the entire production chain in a joint effort to strengthen capacity at the primary production level.

RENOFARM aims to directly contribute to better production, nutrition and the environment by making farms healthier and more sustainable.

This initiative will contribute toward countries’ agrifood systems transformation through the provision of comprehensive support in the implementation of good production practices, health and vaccination programs, biosecurity measures and antimicrobial alternatives.

The ultimate goal is to reduce the need for antimicrobials and promote their responsible use when needed.

Supporting implementation of national action plans on AMR

Challenges persist within countries when implementing national action plans (NAP) on AMR. These challenges include the need to comprehensively incorporate all aspects of the food and agriculture sectors, establishing effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for the NAPs and timely updating NAPs that are set to expire.

Recognising these key challenges, FAO’s sector-specific work on AMR also focuses on developing global tools for adaptation and use at regional and country levels and providing tailored technical support for implementing countries’ national AMR action plans. Major tools and initiatives include:

Preventing antimicrobial resistance together

Established by the quadripartite, the AMR Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Platform is an inclusive, international and multi-stakeholder forum. Bringing together relevant stakeholders across the human, animal, plant and environment sectors to assist in preserving antimicrobials as lifesaving medicines for all organisms and ensuring their responsible use under aOne Health approach.

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The platform is instrumental in building and promoting a shared global vision of AMR and catalysing a global collective engagement and action around shared priorities on AMR. It will help define targets and activities to inform bold and specific commitments at the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AMR in 2024 and the 2024 High-Level Ministerial Meeting on AMR.

As we observe World AMR Awareness Week in 2023, we must remind ourselves of the significance of each sector and the importance of working together to tackle AMR. The misuse and overuse of antimicrobials are the primary drivers of AMR. Therefore, adopting a whole-of-society and multi-sectoral approach is essential to address this global issue effectively.

Junxia Song is currently a Senior Animal Health Officer working in the One Health group in the Division of Livestock Production and Animal Health at Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Alejandro Dorado García is Animal Health Officer at The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Italy. Emmanuel Kabali is AMR Project Coordination and Technical Support Consultant/Global Project Coordinator at FAO.Yu Qiu is the Animal Health Officer at Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) headquarters in Rome, Italy. Nelea Motriuc is AMR Multi-Stakeholder partnership Platform Coordinator at Belgium. Fallon Bwatu Mbuyi, FAO Global AMR Communication Specialist, Italy.

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth.


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