Overuse of antibiotics in poultry farms a threat

Drug-resistant bacteria common in these places can cause infections in people that are immune to drugs like ampicillin
Overuse of antibiotics in poultry farms a threat

KOCHI: A study conducted in Muvattupuzha on the antimicrobial resistance of pathogens in the poultry production environment and developing the same among humans revealed that the bacterial infections among people residing in the area were caused by similar drug-resistant Escherichia coli (E-coli). The irrational use of antibiotics in chicken, for meat production and preventing infections, has made an impact in the community by making them resistant to certain common antibiotics, including ampicillin, amoxicillin, amikacin and ofloxacin. 

The study titled  ‘Antibiotic resistance in Escherichia-coli isolates from poultry environment and UTI patients in Kerala’ was published in ‘Elsevier’ medical journal in January this year. The study was conducted by Stevlin Sebastian, Antriya Annie Tom, Joyal Anna Babu and Merin Joshy of Nirmala College of Pharmacy, Muvattupuzha. Two poultry farms each from six areas in the Muvattupuzha region in Ernakulam were selected for the study. Samples of faecal matter, litter from inside and outside the shed and nearby agricultural soil were collected. The samples tested found that E-coli was resistant to antibiotics, including ampicillin, amoxicillin, meropenem and tetracycline. 

Two broiler poultry farms at a distance of 3km away from each other were selected in the region. As many as 60 samples were clustered for study. “Similar antibiotic resistance pattern was seen in the samples of around 150 patients with urinary tract infection (UTI) collected from hospitals in the nearby regions. Due to this, even infants are born with this resistance which is not a good sign,” said Stevlin. E-coli is a diverse group of bacteria that include intestinal pathogenic E-coli, which can be a source for gastrointestinal infections and extraintestinal pathogenic E-coli, which can cause infections outside the gastrointestinal system. In poultry, E-coli bacteria can cause colibacillosis disease, among others, that account for high morbidity and mortality. 

UTI vulnerability
Urinary tract infections are common bacterial infections and many patients suffer from highly recurrent UTIs which are caused by genetically diverse bacteria like E-coli. Widespread dispersal of chicken litter or chicken litter-based organic fertilisers harbouring antibiotic-resistant food-borne pathogens can be a serious environmental hazard. Food animals and their production environments are reservoirs of both resistant bacteria and resistance genes that could be transferred to humans by direct contact, through the food production chain or as a result of the animal waste on land.

“Heightened antimicrobial usage in the poultry industry due to the growing demand may lead to the emergence and dissemination of the multi-resistant and pathogenic E-coli variants, which could be an important public health threat. Policymakers should implement stringent rules at the earliest to curb this menace of occurrence of multidrug-resistant strains in the poultry environment,” said Stevlin. Kerala had launched Antimicrobial Resistance Strategic Action Plan in 2018 intending to combat antimicrobial resistance, but its operations were hit by the pandemic. As many as 27 institutions are under the action plan in the state involved in tracking infections and pathogens.

Kerala has launched Antimicrobial Resistance Strategic Action Plan in 2018

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