JAIPUR: Misuse of antibiotics in poultry farms is leading to a proliferation of multi-drug resistant bacteria. To make matters worse, these bacteria are now spreading in the environment because of unsafe disposal of poultry litter and waste in agricultural fields.
A new study from Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), 'Antibiotic Resistance in Poultry Environment' says, this has a potential to infect human beings. The study conducted by CSE's Pollution Monitoring Laboratory, collected samples of litter and soil from in and around 12 randomly selected poultry farms. These were located in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab, four key poultry-producing states in north India.
The study found strong similarity in the resistance pattern of E. coli from the litter and from agricultural soil in the surrounding areas where the litter was used as manure. This similarity was statistically established by the study. "This indicates that the multi-drug resistant E. coli being created in the poultry farms is entering the environment through litter. From the agricultural fields, these bacteria can go anywhere - into groundwater and food - and can infect agricultural workers and and animals, thereby becoming a public health threat," said Amit Khurana, senior programme manager, food safety and toxins team, CSE.
According to the study, a total of 217 isolates of three types of bacteria - E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Staphylococcus lentus - were extracted and tested for resistance against 16 antibiotics. Ten of these antibiotics have been declared Critically Important (CI) for humans by the World Health Organization (WHO).
"Antibiotic misuse is common in the poultry sector. What makes the situation worse is the fact that the sector is also plagued with poor waste management. Therefore we first wanted to understand the extent of antibiotic resistance in the poultry environment, and then establish if the resistance bacteria is moving out of the poultry farms into the environment through waste disposal," said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE.
The poultry farms identified by CSE for this study were spread out across 12 different clusters in nine districts. CSE researchers found that antibiotics were being used in these poultry farms, and that the litter was used as manure in neighboring agricultural lands. As a control, the study also collected 12 soil samples at a distance of 10 to 20 km from the respective farms, where the litter was not being used as manure.