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The study found alarming levels of antimicrobial resistance in the poultry environment

NEW DELHI: A new study has found high levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the poultry farming environment in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, raising serious concerns about the impact of the disease on human health.

Scientists from the NGOs Toxics Link and World Animal Protection collected 14 samples of poultry litter and groundwater from six poultry farms.

Eleven of these samples showed the alarming presence of antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs) against 15 important antibiotics, including glycopeptides, carbapenems and macrolides.

Research by Toxics Link has shown that poultry farmers use antibiotics indiscriminately due to a general lack of awareness and understanding of the possible consequences.

Despite the Bureau of Indian Standards’ recommendation not to use antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) in poultry feed, they are still available in markets and used by poultry farmers.

Colistin, a last-resort antibiotic used to treat multidrug-resistant infections whose use in food-producing animals was banned in 2019 by the Union Ministry of Health, continues to be sold through online platforms.

ARGs are genetic enablers of antimicrobial resistance, which causes bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites to stop responding to antimicrobial drugs.

Although ARGs occur in the natural environment, their number in the environment has increased in recent years due to anthropogenic activities leading to the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in various sectors.

This has resulted in diseases such as pneumonia, gonorrhea, post-operative infections, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria becoming increasingly incurable.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least seven lakh people die every year from drug-resistant diseases, including more than two lakh people who die from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

India accounts for three percent of global antimicrobial consumption in food animals and has one of the highest rates of antimicrobial use (AMU) intensity in the livestock sector.

As the country steps up animal husbandry practices to address food insecurity, concerns are growing that the poultry sector will become a new hotspot for antimicrobial resistance.

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