Antiobiotic consumption in livestock on the rise in India, China

livestock agrilifetoday flickrIndia and China are likely to register a 99 per cent growth in antibiotic consumption in livestock systems over the next 15 years

Brazil, Russia and South Africa will also experience tremendous growth in antibiotic consumptions as farmers intensify their efforts to produce livestock products.

Increased use of antimicrobial drugs in livestock systems will however adversely affect poor farmers in developing countries, according to researchers at the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

A recently released scientific paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) shows that global trends in antimicrobial consumption is expected to rise by 67 per cent between 2010 and 2030. While researchers acknowledge that antibiotics are necessary in livestock systems to meet the growing demand for meat, milk and eggs, widespread use may contribute to growing microbe resistance.

A survey by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) shows that 51 per cent of the member countries have banned anti-microbials as growth promoters. Other 19 per cent have a partial ban with just 30 per cent having no ban. Of these countries, 91 per cent have legislation covering veterinary medicine and in most cases laws on importation, distribution, marketing and use.

Only 27 per cent have an official system of collecting quantitative data on veterinary medicines.

Additionally, residues of these drugs used in certain livestock systems may harm consumers of eggs, meat and milk. Researcher warns of the dangers of increased use of antibiotics in livestock systems. “Their effectiveness - and the lives of millions of people around the world - are now in danger due to the increasing global problem of antibiotic resistance, which is being driven by antibiotic consumption,” noted author Ramanan Laxminarayan, a senior research scholar at Princeton University and director at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, in Washington, DC.

Poor farmers in developing countries while contributing little to the overall problem will bear the brunt of excessive drug usage. “Small-scale livestock keepers in developing countries are unlikely to be major contributors to the problem. However, they are likely to suffer a disproportionately high share of the adverse effects of high microbial use in farm animals,” added co-author of the paper Tim Robinson, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

According to the researcher, poor livestock keepers will be affected by reduced efficacy of drug treatment, increased cost of antimicrobial drugs and reduced availability of drugs for treating their sick animals. “Poor people are more likely to consume drug residues in cheap protein sources. This group will be most hurt when human drugs become less effective, more expensive and scarce,” observed Robinson.

Overall, the scientists caution against the simplistic view that policies and procedures used in the USA and Europe to reduce antibiotic use among some livestock producers can or should be adopted wholesale in low- and middle-income countries.

Mwangi Mumero


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