Rampant use of antibiotics in animals to promote growth and protect against infections is leading to large-scale antibiotic resistance in not just poultry farm soil, but soil from agricultural lands nearby due to poor waste management, found a study released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Thursday.
“The study shows that the antibiotic resistance in the poultry animals is travelling outside the farms through animal litter. By all logic, and comparing this study to international ones, we can say that this antibiotic resistance enters the food chain through the animals and crops and then moves onto the water cycle through ground water and then drinking water,” said Amit Khurana, programme manager, Food Safety and Toxins at CSE and one of the authors of the report ‘Antibiotic Resistance in Poultry Environment’ .
For the study, 47 soil samples were collected from poultry farms in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab. A total of 217 isolates of three common bacteria -- E. coli, K. pneumoniae and S. lentus -- were isolated from these samples. These bacteria are responsible for diarrhoea, urinary tract infection, pneumonia, bloodstream infections, pelvic inflammation and even septic shock in humans.
The scientists tested these bacteria sample for susceptibility to 13 antibiotics they found that most of the samples were resistant to these drugs.
Among the 217, there were 62 E coli isolates and all were resistant to meropenem, an antibiotic that belongs to the carbapenem class of antibiotics that are used as last-resort in hospitals. This antibiotic is classified as high priority and critically important by the World Health Organisation.
100% of the E coli isolates were multi-drug resistant, meaning more than three classes of antibiotics were ineffective against the bacteria. About 40% of these samples were resistant to 10 of the 13 antibiotics they were tested against.
In case of K pneumonia, 92.3% of the samples were multidrug resistant and 30% were resistant to 10 or more antibiotics and 10% were resistant to all the antibiotics.
About 78% of all S. lentus isolates were multidrug resistant and about a fourth were resistant to at least eight of the antibiotics.
A 2014 study by CSE found residues of multiple medically important antibiotics in chicken meat samples from Delhi NCR.
Increasing resistance in food-producing animals and farm products drives up antibiotic resistance in humans, making it difficult to treat common infections. Globally, antimicrobial resistance is responsible for the greater spread of infectious diseases uncertainty in the success of high-end procedures, longer hospital stays and more expensive treatments.
The CSE report estimates that by 2050, antimicrobial resistance – which includes resistance to antibiotics as well as antifungals, antivirals etc -- can lead to 10 million deaths per year and lost outputs worth $100 trillion globally.