Overmedicated chicken new health threat

Overmedicated chicken new health threat

NEW DELHI: The next time you bite into that succulent piece of chicken, you may well be sinking your teeth into congealed antibiotics.

A new study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has revealed that rampant unregulated use of antibiotics in the poultry industry could be a contributing factor to Indians developing a resistance against antibiotics. And that could be the reason why Indians are falling prey to several ailments that are otherwise curable.

With nearly 40 per cent of the tested samples of chicken being found to be heavy in antibiotic, public health experts say it could be a reason for increasing antibiotic resistance in India.

"Antibiotics are no more restricted to humans nor limited to treating diseases. The poultry industry uses antibiotics as a growth promoter. Chickens are fed antibiotics so
that they gain weight and grow faster," said Sunita Narain, director general, CSE.

Seventy samples of chicken in Delhi and NCR were tested to detect presence of six antibiotics widely used in poultry. These include oxytetracycline, chlortetracycline and doxycycline, enrofloxacin, ciprofloxacin and neomycin, an aminoglycoside. Residues of nearly five of the six antibiotics were found in the chicken samples.

Of the 40 per cent samples found containing antibiotic residues, 22.9 per cent contained residues of only one antibiotic while the remaining 17.1 per cent samples had residues of more than one antibiotic. Researchers pointed out that antibiotics were frequently pumped into chicken during its life cycle of 35-42 days.

These antibiotics are mixed with food to promote growth and administered to all the birds for several days to prevent infections, even if there is no symptom.

In India, there is now growing evidence that resistance to fluoroquinolones such as ciprofloxacin is rapidly increasing among the humans. Treating fatal diseases like sepsis, pneumonia and tuberculosis (TB) with fluoroquinolones is becoming tough because microbes that cause these diseases are increasingly becoming resistant to fluoroquinolones.

The CSE study found two fluoroquinolone antibiotics - enrofloxacin and ciprofloxacin - in 28.6 per cent of the chicken samples tested. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had also said that the number of multi-drug resistant (MDR)-TB cases in the country has increased five times between 2011 and 2013. Studies show that one-third of MDR-TB cases are resistant to fluoroquinolones, which are critical for MDR-TB treatment.

"India will have to adopt a comprehensive approach to tackle this problem. Till the time we keep misusing antibiotics in animals, we will not be able to solve the problem of antibiotic resistance. For India, therefore, the priority should be to put systems in place to reduce the use of antibiotics in poultry and other food animals," said Chandra Bhushan, CSE's deputy director general and head of the lab.