A study done by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi, has found out that extensive misuse of antibiotics in poultry farms is leading to the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria to the farm surroundings, soil and water resources. The study was done in 12 farms from 4 important poultry producing states in India- namely Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab. The study looked for resistance patterns in 217 isolates of E.coli, K.pneumonaie and S.lentus, the first two organisms being notorious for causing life threatening infections. It was found that 100% of E.coli, 92% of K.pneumoniae and 78% of S.lentus were multidrug resistant! More importantly, a large number of these bacteria was resistant to those antibiotics, which are considered as critically important for human health.
The rampant misuse of antibiotics in the farm sector and poor waste management practices followed in farms, may the reason behind this rapidly worsening health issue. In many places in India, farm litter is used as manure in the fields and this causes the resistant organisms to spread to the soil and water resources also. Antibiotics are used extensively in the farm sector (both animal and aquaculture) for treatment of infections, as prophylaxis for disease outbreaks and as growth promoters. Out of these three type of uses, antibiotic use for treatment purposes is accepted as rational and the other two uses are considered as irrational. Antibiotics are said to improve the ‘feed conversion efficiency’ in food animals, that is it will hasten the weight gain and help the farmer to market his produce earlier. This is the reason why antibiotics tend to be used extensively as growth promoters.
Only concrete action to reduce antibiotic use in agriculture, can help to contain the emergence and spread of resistant strains of bacteria. A proper mechanism to manage litter from farms and good infection control practices in farms, are also essential to deal with this issue.