By Nwakwaya Raymond
Many livestock farmers in Kenya tend to rush to pharmacies and agrovets to buy antibiotics for their animals every time the latter display symptoms
But, as much as well meaning the farmers are with such kind of quick fix remedies, there is a real danger that many could be using the antibiotics inappropriately on their cows, goats, sheep, birds and donkeys, among others.
A report released by World Animal Protection ahead of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week says inappropriate use of antimicrobials in animals is a growing global concern.
The study done in November and December 2020 consisted of a cross-sectional survey targeting veterinary drug stores (agrovets), pharmacies, farmers, and the public across 19 counties in Kenya.
It sought to determine the knowledge and practices on antimicrobial resistance. At least 1,142 participants across 19 counties in Kenya were interviewed in the study.
The study showed that antibiotics were the most sold product in 58% of agrovets and 43% of pharmacies were interviewed.
Antibiotic sales contributed significantly to total revenue in both stores, 38.8% in Pharmacies and 30% in Agrovets.
Dairy (49.6%) and poultry (38.9%) farmers were reported as the most frequent consumers of antibiotics.
These two species are associated with intensive farming systems that are associated with overuse and misuse of antibiotics to mask poor welfare practices.
Although levels of knowledge on antibiotics and AMR were relatively evident, improper practices were evident in all study categories.
For example, self-prescription, failure to complete prescribed dose and sharing of antibiotics was reported.
Every time an antibiotic is given to an animal or consumed by a human, basically it is an opportunity for that bacteria present to get used to that antibiotic and possibly mutate to be resistance.
Dr Victor Yamo, Farming Campaigns Manager, World Animal Protection says: “The main objective of this study was to explore the levels of antimicrobial resistance knowledge and prescribing practices among veterinary and human drug vendors, farmers, and the public.”
Knowledge and practices related to antibiotics among respondents showed significant gaps and need an urgent effort to mitigate such practices.
Antibiotics were the commonly sold product in human and veterinary stores. This contrasts with the low sales of vaccines and other biosecurity measures.
The vet expert adds: “A concerted effort is urgently needed to sensitise need for responsible use of antibiotics in human and animal health.
“For instance, farmers need to shift from low welfare practices in which antibiotics are misused to cover up poor welfare, and adopt higher animal welfare standards that ensure animals live a healthy life .”
Finally, despite having had World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) since 2016, the level of awareness of this week- long event that runs from 18th to 24th of November every year was found to be low.
Most (81%) of general public interviewed and 80% of farmers were not aware of WAAW.
This means a concerted effort is required for a comprehensive action during this year’s WAAW in human and animal health, as we draw our lessons from just ending National Action Plan for the reduction of AMR next year.