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To mark WHO World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, 18-24 Nov 2021, and help reduce the overuse of antibiotics, MORU researchers have released a new, easy to use online tool – Antibiotic Footprint Calculator – that could make an important contribution in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR), one of the world’s most significant emerging threats to public health.

Drawing of a pill in a dish, with the text 'Tracing your antibiotic foorprint. How much do your medicine consumption and meat intake contribute towards your and the global antibiotic footprint? Join the effort to help the world by reducing your antibiotic foorprint.'

The world’s first readily available online tool of its kind, Antibiotic Footprint Calculator lets a user quickly estimate their antibiotic footprint: how many total mgs of antibiotics they consume per year, both directly from taking antibiotics and indirectly from eating meat from animals fed antibiotics.

Since antibiotic consumption varies significantly around the globe, the Calculator also includes per capita (average) national antibiotic consumption data from 218 countries – allowing users to compare their footprint with others and against their own — or any other — country’s average.

Among countries with open-access and official data of both human and animal consumptions available, Thailand has the highest country average at 38.56 grams/person/year –  significantly higher than countries with the lowest footprint: Estonia (5.74 grams/person/year), Netherlands (6.57 grams/person/year) and Austria (6.59 grams/person/year).

“People in low and middle-income countries may take at least two courses of oral antibiotics each year for common cold or acute diarrhea,” explained Antibiotic Footprint developer Mahidol University Asst Prof Direk Limmathurotsakul, Head of Microbiology at the Bangkok-centered Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU).

“Comparing their antibiotic footprint with others would allow them to notice that many people in other countries take antibiotics less often and in much lower quantities than they do.”

The misuse and overuse of antimicrobial medicines in humans, livestock and agriculture are the main drivers in antimicrobial resistance (AMR), where the bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites (microbes) that cause diseases stop responding to our antimicrobial medicines, making common infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.

“Most people do not know that antibiotics are regularly fed to healthy livestock to prevent disease. In fact, 30% of the global consumption of antibiotics is by humans, while 70% is by animals,” explained Rattanasri Kittikongnapang, Food and Ecological Agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace Thailand.

“This is the missing information in our food system. Consumers have the right to know what is in our food, to be able to choose wisely for well-being for all. It is important that people start looking for the origins and methods o animal-raising before buying meat products,” said Kittikongnapang.

“The excessive use of antibiotics on farms props up low-welfare practices and results in the excretion of antibiotics residue and drug-resistant bacteria to sewage systems and into the environment. This results in antibiotic-resistant infections in the community. The antibiotics should be used only to treat sick animals, not to prevent disease across groups of farm animals. Farms also need to solve the root cause by improving the animal welfare standards (FARMS) at a minimum,” said Chokdee Smithkittipol, Food System Campaign Manager, World Animal Protection Thailand.

“If people reduced their antibiotic consumption, they would help slow the development of antimicrobial resistance –  and help save many lives worldwide,” explained Smithkittipol.

Funded with support from Greenpeace Thailand, World Animal Protection Thailand, and Wellcome (UK), Antibiotic Footprint Calculator is being released during the WHO World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, 18-24 Nov 2021.