One of the major sources of protein in our diet still remains the animal protein, of which, poultry meat and eggs form a major part. However, in the present context, the ultimate question to ponder remains whether it is a plate of food or a mine of antibiotic residual food. The poultry food, from farms where a huge amount of antibiotics are used, is more likely to produce food with antibiotic residues than the farm produce where no or minimal antibiotics are used. Poultry production systems have progressed at a high pace and have emerged as one of the largest and most lucrative enterprises in developing countries. The expectancies and immense pressure of supply on the production of poultry products in terms of eggs and meat necessitate the use of antibiotics and growth promoters in poultry farming. However, there is a thin line between judicious use and over-use of these substances. The use of antibiotics and therapeutic agents along with growth promoters can be a boon or a threat, depending on the pattern of use of these chemical substances. Their use can create havoc in the human populations. Antibiotic residues present in the meat can directly unleash an assault of microbes in humans. Residues of antibiotics present in meat can easily find their way into the human food chain, where they can create resistant microbes. Humans are at a double threat like a two-edged sword. The mutated robust microbe strain can invade the body and cause diseases that may then be difficult to treat.
India, being one of the highest producers and consumers of eggs and meat from poultry birds, is also a major producer and user of antibiotics for poultry. Most of the times, the antibiotic regimen used for poultry, animals, and humans coincide and this leads to the development of so many drug-related problems. Bacterial drug-resistance is becoming increasingly serious in developing countries including India. This forces the use of more drugs in the poultry and livestock industry that ultimately brings immense threats to public health.
Indiscriminate and extensive use of antibiotics in poultry rearing needs to be strictly monitored to reduce the incidence of drug resistance in the food web. A scientific study revealed that meat producing farms (Broilers) are most likely to show high antimicrobial resistance than egg-producing farms (Layers). This may be attributed to high pressure produce marketable birds within minimum possible time. Authorities and farmers need to push for a reduction in the use of antibiotics for poultry, the sooner the better. Antibiotics for both human and poultry use and the antibiotics that can easily cause cross-drug resistance need to be immediately regulated or completely banned according to the recommendations of various professional groups. This will also need measures of extensive and dedicated research to develop and promote various kinds of new drugs for use in poultry farming. These new antibiotics need to be safe and highly effective. This is analogous to selection and culling of antibiotics and it should be directed towards sustained poultry benefits along with lessening the burden of drug resistance across food web. If continued efforts are not made, time is not far when most of the poultry food resources will be expected to pass tests for antibiotics residue.
An intense supervision procedure needs to be implemented along with the proper planned inspection and approval of new antibiotics for animal and poultry use. An additional planning will be needed to further regulate drug application by veterinarians and poultry farmers. Appropriate laboratories for testing and regulating the antibiotic status in poultry products need to be established. Agricultural authorities will also need to intensify communications and cooperation with other national and international organizations such as the WHO and FAO to control the spread of drug-resistant bacteria among countries.
How to reduce antibiotic resistance on poultry farms
Proper farm management, biosecurity and use of novel feed ingredients can all help in reducing levels of antibiotic resistance on poultry farms. Although more than 30 countries have already banned antibiotic growth promoters, antibiotics in many parts of the world are generally administered to the entire flock for prophylaxis, disease treatment, and/or growth promotion. However, there remains a constant growing pressure on poultry producers to change their practices as antibiotic resistance has emerged as one of the biggest public health concerns of the 21st century. According to one estimate, failing to tackle antimicrobial resistance will mean that the world population by 2050 could be between 11 million and 44 million lower than it would otherwise be in the absence of antimicrobial resistance. While completely eliminating antibiotic resistance is unlikely, the overall position can be improved by judicious use of these dreadful chemicals.
When poultry has a disease that requires antibiotic treatment, they have to be treated with antibiotics; and this is something that cannot be changed. However, what can be changed is the use of antibiotics for growth promotion and prophylaxis — their use substituted with proper farm management, increased biosecurity and the use of novel feed ingredients. Biosecurity constitutes a set of measures to prevent the introduction of infectious disease agents and to minimize the incidence and spread of disease agents in poultry flocks. Management of the poultry farm, including the transfer of birds between production areas, checks on people and other birds/animals entering the farm, as well as the proper management of equipment, vehicles, air, feed and water supply: all need to be carefully monitored. There are several professional farm management and biosecurity guidelines available and easily accessible to help with this aspect. Where nutrition is concerned, a recent meta-analysis of poultry feeding trials has found that some novel feed additives have been found to perform as well, if not better, than antibiotic growth promoters.
Key points to limit the use of antibiotics in poultry and prevent drug resistance in pathogenic infections
- Preventive strategies, such as appropriate husbandry and hygiene, routine health monitoring, and immunizations, should be emphasized.
- Other therapeutic options should be considered prior to antimicrobial therapy.
- Judicious use of antimicrobials, when under the direction of a veterinarian, should meet all the requirements of a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
- Prescription, Veterinary Feed Directive, and extra-label use of antimicrobials must meet all the requirements of a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
- Extra-label antimicrobial therapy must be prescribed only in accordance with the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act amendments to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and its regulations.
- Veterinarians should work with those responsible for the care of animals to use antimicrobials judiciously regardless of the distribution system through which the antimicrobial was obtained.
- Regimens for therapeutic antimicrobial use should be optimized using current pharmacological information and principles
- Antimicrobials considered important in treating refractory infections in human or veterinary medicine should be used in animals only after careful review and reasonable justification. Consider using other antimicrobials for initial therapy
- Use narrow spectrum antimicrobials whenever appropriate.
- Utilize culture and susceptibility results to aid in the selection of antimicrobials when clinically relevant.
- Therapeutic antimicrobial use should be confined to appropriate clinical indications. Inappropriate uses such as for uncomplicated viral infections should be avoided.
- Therapeutic exposure to antimicrobials should be minimized by treating only for as long as needed for the desired clinical response.
- Limit therapeutic antimicrobial treatment to ill or at-risk birds, treating the fewest birds indicated.
- Minimize environmental contamination with antimicrobials whenever possible.
- Accurate records of treatment and outcome should be used to evaluate therapeutic regimens.
“Using antibiotics carefully only will work for sustainable future”
Sheikh Firdous Ahmad1*, Tania Gupta1 and Kanika Mahajan2
ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar, Bareilly (U.P.)
Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Science university (GADVASU), Ludhiana
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