New Delhi: India is among the top five countries, along with the US, China, Brazil and Germany, using antibiotics for livestock, according to a study conducted in 228 countries.

By 2030, antibiotic use for raising livestock in middle-income countries is estimated to reach almost twice their 2010 levels, far outstripping population growth.

Studies have established links between the use of anti-microbials and the increased prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in livestock.

The authors estimate that around 63,151 tonnes of anti-microbials were used for livestock production in 2010 by the 228 countries. Compared with raising cattle, raising chickens and pigs each consumed a greater amount of anti-microbials. Further, global anti-microbial consumption is projected to increase by 67% by 2030, partly due to increasing demand for meat products and adoption of intensive farming practices in middle-income countries such as Brazil, India and China.

Thomas Van Boeckel and colleagues used maps of livestock densities, projected demand for meat products, current estimates of anti-microbial use in high-income countries, and statistical modelling to estimate annual average anti-microbial use in livestock.

Despite the study’s requisite assumptions and extrapolations, quantitative estimates of anti-microbial use might help identify potential hotspots for the emergence of antibiotic resistance, according to the authors.

The study said that India is already facing antibiotic overuse by humans and an extremely high (and increasing) prevalence of anti-microbial resistance.

Almost 95% of adults in India carry bacteria resistant to beta-lactam anti-microbials.

“Widespread resistance may be more consequential for India than for other countries because India’s bacterial disease burden is among the highest in the world and, therefore, anti-microbials play a critical role in limiting morbidity and mortality," the study observed.

Currently, India has no regulatory provisions for the use of anti-microbials in cattle, chicken, and pigs raised for domestic consumption.

“Limiting anti-microbial consumption in both humans and livestock may present a formidable challenge for Indian public health authorities, but it might also be an opportunity for the country to take a regional lead in tackling this problem. For instance, neighbours such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka are likely to be guided and influenced by regulatory action in India, given the interconnectedness of the region’s pharmaceutical commerce," the study said.

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