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HomeCountryIndiaIndian Poultry environment have alarming levels of Antibiotic Resistance: WAP study

Indian Poultry environment have alarming levels of Antibiotic Resistance: WAP study

11 out of 14 samples collected from poultry farms across the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh found high levels of Antimicrobial Resistance Genes (ARG).

A new study highlighted alarming levels of Resistance Genes against medically important antibiotics in the Poultry Environment. A collaborative research report “Poultry’s pill problem; Antibiotics and its environmental concern” released by Toxics Link and World Animal Protection found high levels of Antimicrobial Resistance Genes (ARG) in 11 out of 14 samples collected from poultry farms across the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

The study analysed 14 poultry litter and groundwater samples from the above-mentioned 6 poultry farms indicating an alarming presence of ARGs against 15 important antibiotics, including glycopeptides, carbapenems, and macrolides.

Toxics Link also conducted both offline and online surveys which found that poultry farmers are using antibiotics indiscriminately due to a general lack of awareness and understanding of the possible consequences. Despite the recommendation of the Bureau of Indian Standards to not use Antibiotic Growth Promoters (AGPs) in poultry feeds, these continue to be available in the markets and used by poultry farmers. Incidentally, Colistin, a last-resort antibiotic drug for treating multidrug-resistant infections, banned for use in food-producing animals by the Union Ministry of Health in 2019, is still being sold through online platforms.

Gajendra Sharma from World Animal Protection elaborates, “Poor animal husbandry practices, especially in poultry farming, significantly contributed to antibiotic overuse. Farmers often administer antibiotics preventatively and for disease treatment, resulting in high levels of antibiotic residues in both food products and waste. Addressing the root cause of antibiotic misuse in the animal farming sector especially poultry is critical for controlling and reducing AMR. World Animal Protection strongly advocates for the effective integration and implementation of animal welfare into National and State Action plans to combat AMR. The time to act is now to safeguard the health and welfare of animals, humans, and the planet.”

ARGs are genetic facilitators of AMR which causes bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites to no longer respond to antimicrobial medicines. Although naturally occurring, ARGs in the environment have increased in recent years due to anthropogenic activities leading to overuse and misuse of antimicrobials across different sectors. This has led to diseases such as pneumonia, gonorrhoea, post-operative infections, HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria becoming increasingly untreatable. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least seven lakh people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases, including more than two lakh people who die from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

Key highlights of the research study are given below:

  • The number of ARGs identified varied from 7,914 to 1,592 genes.
  • Manure samples in Coimbatore contained the highest amount of ARGs compared to both samples in Vijayawada (borewell samples and manure).
  • Multidrug Resistance Genes constituted 25%-45% of all the ARGs isolated in the samples, followed by Glycopeptide, Peptide, Tetracycline, Aminoglycoside and Macrolides.
  • Identified ARGs were against fifteen antimicrobials listed under the New WHOs List of Medically Important Antimicrobials, three of which were Carbapenems, Glycopeptide and Mupirocin-like antimicrobials.
  • Bacteria pathogenic to both humans and poultry, Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae, were found in manure samples, raising concern over the development of drug-resistant zoonotic pathogens.

Survey findings

  • Poultry feeds available to the farmers are unregulated and unlabelled.
  • Farmers were largely unaware of the risk related to AMR, the withdrawal period and the guidelines provided by the pollution control board concerning poultry establishment.
  • Critically Important Antimicrobials promoted for growth promotion were found in online retail shops, despite the recommendations and regulations against them, e.g. Tylosin.
  • Colistin, banned for use in animals in 2018, is still being sold as a growth promoter in online retail shops for animal products.

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