World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan spoke before a gathering of delegates from EU Member States on the subject of antimicrobial resistance, calling the matter a "global threat to health" and one requiring the intervention of regulators.
Chan praised several EU nations-in particular Denmark-for their work in curbing antibiotic use in otherwise health animals, but noted the problem is a global one requiring a global response. Surveillance, in particular, is especially necessary given the potential for diseases to rapidly spread around the globe, said Chan.
"Recognizing the potential for a health crisis, this country progressively ended the administration of antibiotics as growth-promoters in the late 1990s, well before the EU-wide ban," said Chan.
Chan also congratulated EU industry for its part in limiting the use of antibiotics.
"The termination of the use of antibiotics as growth promoters had a voluntary component on the part of industry, strongly motivated by consumer concerns," said Chan. "I congratulate industry for its responsible actions.
Chan added her fears about moving toward a "post-antibiotic" world in which common medical procedures assumed great amounts of risk thanks to untreatable infections.
"Some sophisticated interventions, like hip replacements, organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy, and care of preterm infants, would become far more difficult or even too dangerous to undertake," noted Chan.
Chan called on regulators to curb the use of antibiotics, but said many countries lack the resources present in the EU.
"Many countries are crippled by lack of capacity, including laboratory, diagnostic, quality assurance, regulatory, and surveillance capacity, and control over how antimicrobials are obtained and used."
WHO - Antimicrobial resistance in the European Union and the world