A new report has found high levels of Antimicrobial Resistance Genes (ARG) in 11 out of 14 samples collected from farmed birds’ facilities across the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. 

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 environment have increased in recent years due to anthropogenic activities leading to overuse and misuse of antimicrobials across different sectors. 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 animal agriculture sector.

The report, titled “Poultry’s pill problem; Antibiotics and its environmental concern” and produced by World Animal Protection and Toxics Link, analysed 14 chicken litter and groundwater samples from the six chicken farms indicating an alarming presence of ARGs against 15 important antibiotics. Multidrug Resistance Genes constituted 25%-45% of all the ARGs isolated in the samples, followed by Glycopeptide, Peptide, Tetracycline, Aminoglycoside and Macrolides.

Toxics Link also conducted both offline and online surveys which found that chicken 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 farmed bird feeds, these continue to be available in the markets and used by farmers. 

Dr Vijay Pal Singh, Principal Technical Officer at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research–Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB), said, “The findings of the current study provide evidence of antibiotic use in poultry and its role in increasing trends of AMR. I suggest there is a need to work closely with all stakeholders and to develop sound protocols and control measures for arresting this trend of AMR.”

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Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.