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ARG Presence Alert

Bhubaneswar: A collaborative research report “Poultry’s pill problem; Antibiotics and its environmental concern” released by Toxics Link and World Animal Protection found high levels of Antimicrobial Resistance Genes (ARG) in 11 out of 14 samples collected from poultry farms across the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

The study analyzed 14 poultry litter and groundwater samples from the above-mentioned 6 poultry farms indicating an alarming presence of ARGs against 15important antibiotics, including glycopeptides, carbapenems, and macrolides.

Toxics Link also conducted both offline and online surveys which found that poultry farmers are using antibiotics indiscriminately due to a general lack of awareness and understanding of the possible consequences.

Despite the recommendation of the Bureau of Indian Standards to not use Antibiotic Growth Promoters (AGPs) in poultry feeds, these continue to be available in the markets and used by poultry farmers.

Incidentally, Colistin, a last-resort antibiotic drug for treating multidrug-resistant infections,  banned for use in food-producing animals by the Union Ministry of Health in 2019,  is still being sold through online platforms.

ARGs are genetic facilitators of AMR which causes bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites to no longer respond to antimicrobial medicines. Although naturally occurring, ARGs in the environmenthave increased in recent years due to anthropogenic activities leading to overuse and misuse of antimicrobials across different sectors.

This has led to diseases such as pneumonia, gonorrhoea, post-operative infections, HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria becoming increasingly untreatable. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least seven lakh people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases, including more than two lakh people who die from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

India accounts for 3% of the global consumption of antimicrobials in food animals and has one of the highest Intensity of Antimicrobial Usage (AMU) rates in the livestock sector.

As the country intensifies its animal farming practices to meet food insecurity, there are growing concerns about the poultry sector emerging as a new hotspot for Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

AMR can spread through various routes, including contact with animals or their products and contaminated food, thereby increasing the risk of infection for veterinarians, farmers, and food handlers.

Even waste from poultry farms, such as litter used as fertilizer in agriculture or feed in aquaculture, can cause the spread of AMR across different sectors.