Antibiotics to grow farm animals raise superbug risk

A probe by The Hindu and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism finds a veterinary drug producer promoting their misuse in poultry farming The world’s biggest animal drugs company has been accused of double standards and of exposing consumers in India to “higher levels of risk” by selling antibiotics for purposes now banned in Europe and the U.S. Zoetis, the largest producer of veterinary medicines, is supplying Indian farmers with antibiotics to help their animals grow faster. The practice should be banned worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), because it increases the prevalence of resistant bacteria that can infect humans and cause deadly and untreatable infections. The company stopped advertising antibiotics as growth promoters to American farmers almost two years ago. Zoetis publicly supported new laws in the U.S. banning this abuse of antibiotics as part of its “continued commitment to antibiotic stewardship”. However, Zoetis continues to sell antibiotics directly to Indian farmers with claims on the company’s Indian website that they will make animals grow bigger and faster. This is not currently against Indian law although the government has called for it to end and Maharastra banned the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in agriculture after a Hindu/Bureau of Investigative Journalism report earlier this year. Abdul Ghafur, a professor in infectious diseases who brought together medical societies and the Indian government in 2012 to create a plan to tackle antibiotic resistance, known as the Chennai Declaration, said Zoetis is adopting “double standards”. “If an American company follows one policy in America, they should follow the same policy in India,” he added. Double standards Thomas Van Boeckel, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) who has mapped antibiotic use in agriculture, said: “It is blatantly clear that Zoetis is using a double standard in the way it is willing to expose consumers in India to higher levels of risk than in the United States.” Zoetis says it complies with the law in each location where it operates. The unnecessary use of antibiotics in human medicine and agriculture, such as their use to make animals grow faster rather than treat disease, are major contributors to growing levels of resistant bacteria. It is estimated 1,00,000 babies a year in the country die from infections from resistant bugs. Worldwide they’re believed to kill 7,00,000 people, according to a British government-commissioned review in 2016. WHO has called antibiotic resistance one of the greatest threats to public health. Zoetis, a former subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, has previously said it is “a leader in providing ongoing education to veterinarians and livestock producers on the proper use of antimicrobial drugs”. But the multibillion dollar U.S. company still sells its antibiotics to farmers in India. WHO, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have called for a worldwide ban on the use of antibiotics to fatten farm animals — a practice already banned in the EU and U.S. — in an attempt to stem the rising threat of resistance.

Source  :  https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/antibiotics-to-grow-farm-animals-raise-superbug-risk/article25197072.ece

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