Health in Africa

Antibiotic resistance: AMR among poultry, cattle a worry for Kenya

Health ministry draws up ways to prevent antibiotics residue from ending up in plate

By Agatha Ngotho
Published: Tuesday 21 January 2020

Experts have raised concerns over the misuse of antibiotics in Kenya, but the African country lacks data on the burden of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The collective overuse and misuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals is accelerating AMR in Kenya, said Allan Azegele, deputy director of veterinary services Kenya’s Directorate of Veterinary Services.

He cited the example of mastitis in cows — an inflammation of the udder, driven by poor animal husbandry: If housing areas are not cleaned well of animal droppings, micro-organisms end up in the udder of the animal leading to mastitis.

It also depends on the management of the animal's udder and how milking is handled. Mastitis constitute about 30-40 per cent cases reported to the veterinary department.

“Many such cases come after farmers have tried treating the animals themselves. This is a way of antibiotics misusing as farmers use them without confirmed diagnosis of which the infection-causing organism and what drugs it might be sensitive or resistant to,” Azegele said.

The misuse of antibiotics is replicated in chicken and pig farming, said Victor Yamo of World Animal Protection, Kenya.

Some 70 per cent of the imported antibiotics are given to cows, chicken and pigs, the Global Antibiotic Resistance Partnership reported earlier. About 85 per cent farmers believed not using antibiotics exposes livestock to unreasonable risks. Poultry farmers even put one-day-old chicks on antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick, Yamo said.

Farmers are oblivious to the danger antibiotics pose to both human and animal health: “When they use antibiotics in cows, they don’t observe withdrawal periods and antibiotic residues end up in the production system or in your food chain,” Yamo said.

Milk processors require milk to not have any additive — including hydro peroxide, antibiotics or water (added to increase quantity). To ensure safety, major milk processors in Kenya (eg, Brookside Dairy Ltd) have stopped buying milk on the basis of volume. They rather buy based on quality.

In chicken too, indiscriminately use of antibiotics can lead to residues ending up in meat.

“Antimicrobial resistance is growing as we generate super-bags that we can’t control,” Yamo said. “We need to engage the poultry, dairy and pig industries, including growers, so that we start connecting with what we are giving to the animals to what ends up in our plates,”
he added.

Andrew Tuimur, the chief administrative secretary in the Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Irrigation, claimed the ministry has put in place measures to reduce antibiotics misuse. This was done through the Directorate of Veterinary Services while the Ministry of Health helped implement the national policy on prevention and containment of AMR.

The AMR secretariat under the umbrella of the National Antimicrobial Stewardship Interagency Committee (NASIC) brought together a multi-sectoral team comprising ministries, government departments and agencies, development partners and international organisations.

The AMR policy, launched last year, seeks to create AMR awareness and understanding. “Through these initiatives we have been able to engage and sensitise other policy makers on the need to prioritise antibiotic resistance. The public has also been sensitised on what antibiotic resistance means to their health and that of their animals,” Tuimur said.

There are more than 200 antibiotic-resistant genes in Kenya, according to an analysis by International Livestock Research Institute. According to it, there was a high rate of resistance for respiratory, enteric and hospital-acquired infections, especially to widely available antibiotics such as penicillin and cotrimoxazole.

The study claimed:

“The resistance is prevalent in Escherichia coli isolates from beef and poultry and this is against commonly used drugs such as tetracycline, cotrimoxazole, streptomycin, ampicillin, quinolones and third-generation cephalosporins. Multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, including methicillin-resistant S. aureus, has been isolated from milk samples from lactating animals in northern Kenya.”

“Resistance to tetracycline was highest at followed by ampicillin, oxacillin, clindamycin, cephalexin, erythromycin, kanamycin and ciprofloxacin, in that order. Surveys on knowledge, attitudes and practices on antimicrobial use show that antibiotics are generally used to treat a wide range of syndromes in livestock, even those that do not deserve to be treated with these drugs.”

Such studies are rare. “With no data, you cannot take action but we have started working on this,” Eveylne Wesangula, a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya, said. The health ministry rolled out a surveillance strategy that would recruit 28 hospitals as sentinel surveillance sites by 2022, she added.

The ministry was categorising antibiotics to prevent overuse leading to resistance, Wesangula said. Antibiotics will be classified into three categories viz, ‘access’, ‘watch’ and ‘reserve’ so that diseases that can be easily treated with commonly available, cheap antibiotics are not treated with broad spectrum and expensive antibiotics.

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