GENEVA, July 18 (Xinhua) -- Even though countries are making significant steps in tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR), serious gaps remain and require urgent action, according to a latest report jointly released on Wednesday by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The report looks at surveillance, education, monitoring and regulating consumption and use of antimicrobials in human health, animal health and production, as well as plants and the environment.
Charting progress in 154 countries while also revealing wide discrepancies, the report says that though many countries, especially those in Europe, have been working on AMR policies in human and animal sectors for more than four decades, others have only recently started to take action to contain this growing threat.
Overall, some 105 countries now have surveillance systems in place for reporting drug-resistant infections in human health, and 68 countries with a system for tracking consumption of antimicrobials. In addition, 123 countries reported that they have policies to regulate the sale of antimicrobials.
However, implementation of these policies varies and unregulated medicines are still available in places such as street markets, with no limits on how they are used. Medicines are also very often sold over the counter and no prescription is requested, putting human and animal health at risk and potentially contributing to the development of antimicrobial resistance.
The report highlights areas particularly in the animal and food sectors, where there is an urgent need for more investment and action.
For example, only 64 countries, of which 60 percent are high-income countries, report that they follow FAO-OIE-WHO recommendations to limit the use of critically important antimicrobials for growth promotion in animal production. By contrast, only three countries from the WHO's African Region and seven countries from the WHO Region of the Americas have taken this important step to reduce the emergence of antimicrobial resistance.
There is also a substantial lack of action and data in the environment and plant sectors, making it insufficient to protect the environment from the hazards of antimicrobial production.
More needs to be done to ensure national action plans against AMR are implemented, the tripartite (FAO, OIE and WHO) warns, also underlining that especially many middle- and low-income countries may need long-term development assistance to implement their plans effectively and sustainably.
Positively, the report says, among the top 10 chicken-, pork- and cattle-producing countries that responded to the AMR survey, nine out of 10 have at minimum developed a national action plan, and the majority of these have plans in operation with a monitoring arrangement.