By Mary Mwendwa
Misuse of antibiotics on animals and humans poses a risk of drug resistance, animal health experts have warned.
During a forum that brought together veterinary experts, community members and animal welfare organizations, it emerged that resistance of drugs had increased over the past decade.
It emerged that most farmers use antibiotics to promote growth in animals hence exposing the animals to the danger of resistance.
Chicken products were in the spotlight, citing how many farmers go and get across agro-vet shop counters without knowing the danger some of these drugs pose to the animals and also when transferred to human through consumption.
Antibiotics, also called antibacterials, are the type of antimicrobial drug used in the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections in humans. They may either kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria. Some of the common antibiotics drugs are; Amoxicillin, Ampicillin, Tetracycline, and Vancomycin. Aminoglycosides, Chloramphenicol, and polymyxins are some of the antibiotics used in animals.
According to experts, the increased antibiotic resistance is now a global public health problem that has potential risks to both human and animal health. Reports indicate that up to 40 -80 percent of antibiotics used on farm animals are not necessary.
For example , the federal Interagency Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance reveals the extensive use of antimicrobial drugs has resulted in drug resistance that threatens to reverse the medical advances of the last seventy years. Since antibiotics have been used so widely and for so long, antibiotic resistance has become a major public health threat.
Organizations like the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others have stepped in to encourage doctors and patients to use antibiotics more wisely. Unfortunately, little progress has been made to reduce the use of antibiotics on farms, where most of these drugs are administered.
Dr.Victor Yamo, Humane and Sustainable Agriculture Campaigns Manager, World Animal Protection pointed out how the inappropriate use and abuse of antibiotics in farming are becoming an international consumer problem leading to major fast food outlets banning products with antibiotic residues within their restaurants.
“This problem has to be tackled urgently because the problem of drug resistance is huge in animals and humans ,” Dr.Yamo says.
Similarly, Professor Sam Kariuki, Chief Research Scientist and Director, Centre for Microbiology Research at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) notes with a lot of concern how between 60 – 70 percent microbes that affect humans and animal’s cross borders. He advises on the use of vaccines to reduce overuse of antibiotics which come with the threat of resistance.
“The aspect of vaccines in both human and animals is very critical because when antibiotics fail, vaccines come in handy,” he notes.
Prof.Kariuki reveals that the biology of antibiotics is complex and also production takes very long.” It is very important for farmers to understand that antibiotics can be used for treatment but let them use the right channels like engaging experts to advise them on the right procedures.”
He continues to say many farmers find it hard to improve on their farm hygiene and diet which is a source of many infections to the animals.
“Animals can be breed without using antibiotics if good practices are observed.” He advises.
Prof.Kariuki emphasizes on the use of organic methods of animal keeping but warns on the best practices which have to be upheld.
Tennyson Williams, Director, World Animal Protection agrees to the fact that the world is getting into space where animal welfare is going to be an issue to grapple with.
Tennyson says, “We believe responsible use of antibiotics in both humans and animals is critical to tackling the problem of antibiotic resistance. We are in support of all efforts geared towards reducing the use of antibiotics on animals by promoting higher welfare systems in the livestock industry. “
The experts, however, pointed out the challenge of poor regulation on the usage of antibiotics in animal production industries and veterinary which poses a big problem towards fighting antibiotic resistance.