Antibiotic misuse in India’s livestock sector can be reduced

Awareness of farmers, legislation for clean sanitary practices in animal farms and its strict implementation can do the trick

By Amit Kumar
Published: Wednesday 18 November 2020


For complete coverage, click here

India is being designated as the ‘epicentre’ of the global drug resistance crisis. This is due to a combination of factors that is being described as a ‘perfect storm’ and has led to the spread of superbugs. These factors need to be addressed urgently.

One of them is the misuse of antibiotics in India’s livestock sector. The use of antibiotics in animal husbandry has increased significantly in recent times.

One major concern is that the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed has led to their continuous exposure to gut microbiota. This, in turn, has led to the development of resistance even in commensal pathogens that can then be transferred to other pathogenic bacteria.

In animal husbandry, poultry is the most rapidly growing sector. A study conducted to estimate the demand for egg and poultry meat predicted significant growth of both egg and poultry meat in rural as well as urban communities in the coming two decades.

It is a good source of income. Income from rearing poultry is set to triple by 2020. To fulfil the demand for eggs and meat from poultry, farmers are being forced to use antibiotics as growth promoters.

This is because a majority of deadly diseases affecting poultry are either of viral or bacterial origin. These include viral diseases like Marek disease, infectious bronchitis, gumboro disease, infectious laryngotracheitis, litchi diseases and pox. They also include bacterial diseases like salmonellosis, collibacillosis, campylobacteriosis, Mycoplasmosis, etc.

Good quality vaccines are available against almost all viral diseases. The vice versa is true about bacterial diseases. Good quality, cost-effective and safe vaccines are required for the prevention of such diseases.

This leads to the use of antibiotics to prevent these bacterial infections to avoid any mortality or morbidity.

So how do we address the misuse of antibiotics in tackling bacterial disease among livestock in India. Here are some approaches:

  1. Creating awareness among farmers and end users about drug residue and its after-effects
  2. Restriction on the unregulated sale of antibiotics for use in animals
  3. A complete ban on the use of those antibiotics that are classified by the World Health Organization as being “critically important to human medicines”
  4. Development of disease diagnosis facilities accessible to farmers at nominal costs, for recommendation of drugs of choice
  5. Trainings and awareness campaigns to educate farmers on good managemental practices to avoid the exposure of livestock to pathogens and ultimately, the need for therapeutics
  6. Availability and guidelines for the proper disposal of waste. Strict regulations need to be imposed to avoid drainage of untreated waste into rivers and water bodies
  7. Legislation for the implementation of good sanitary practices in and around animal and poultry farms and other related units
  8. Continuous monitoring of drug resistance bacterial pathogens like coli, Staphylococcus spp, Pseudomonas spp and Klebsiella spp in particular.
  9. A national level antimicrobial monitoring plan in collaboration with all associated agencies including Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, Department of Biotechnology, Department of Science and Technology, Indian Council of Medical Research, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Union Ministry of Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy and Drugs Controller General of India is need of the hour

Amit Kumar is Associate Professor at the College of Biotechnology, SVPUAT, MeerutViews expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.