Excessive use of antibiotics threat to livestock

About 40 to 80 per cent of the antibiotics used on livestock are not necessary, experts say. The misuse of drugs on animals and humans, they warn, can lead to drug resistance.
During a recent meeting held in Nairobi it emerged that resistance to drugs has increased in the past decade and is now a global public health problem with huge potential risks to both human and animal health. The meeting brought together veterinary experts, community members and representatives of animal welfare organisations.
Most farmers use antibiotics to boost growth. The drugs are used in low doses in animal feeds to improve the quality of the animal, with a lower percentage of fat and a higher protein content in meat, exposing them to resistance. Farmers buy the drugs from agrovet shop counters without knowing the dangers.
Drugs such as oxytetracycline, tylosin, bacitracin, neomycin sulphate, streptomycin, erythromycin and linomycin pose a danger to livestock if not used responsibly.
They can also be transferred to humans through meat. Antibiotics are used in the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections. They either kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria.
Some common antibiotics include amoxicillin, ampicillin, tetracycline and vancomycin. Aminoglycosides, chloramphenicol and polymixins are among the antibiotics used in animals.
The Interagency Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance reveals that the extensive use of antimicrobial drugs has resulted in drug resistance, which threatens to reverse the medical advances of the last 70 years.
According to livestock health experts, drug resistance poses a big threat to animals because when they fall sick, they cannot be treated with the available drugs.
“Developing a single antibacterial drug takes very long and, when a drug becomes resistant, it is a big challenge to drug research. During treatment a combination of several antibiotics is used to treat an animal that has become resistant to drugs, making it more expensive,” says Prof Sam Kariuki, the chief research scientist and director, centre for microbiology research at Kemri in Nairobi.
Organisations such as the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA are encouraging doctors and patients to use antibiotics more wisely.
Unfortunately, little progress has been made to reduce the use of these drugs on farms. Dr Victor Yamo, Humane and Sustainable Agriculture Campaigns Manager, World Animal Protection, Nairobi, said inappropriate use and abuse of antibiotics in farming is becoming an international consumer problem. This has led to major fast food outlets banning products with antibiotic residues.
Antibiotics are often abused when a farmer administers drugs to livestock or poultry without a prescription from a veterinary doctor. This could soon come to haunt the user.
“This problem has to be tackled urgently because drug resistance is huge in animals and humans,” Dr Yamo said.
According to Prof Kariuki, between 60 and 70 per cent of the microbes that affect humans and animals cross borders. “Vaccines in humans and animals are very critical because when antibiotics fail, they come in handy,” he noted. Prof Kariuki revealed that the biology of antibiotics is complex, while production also takes very long. “It is very important for farmers to ask experts to advise them on the right procedures,” he said.

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