The ‘Harmful Colistin’ Found In Indian Farm Chicken 

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Sumera B. Reshi

“Drug misuse is not a disease; it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error of judgment.”

An investigative report published by the Guardian Newspaper on 1st Feb 2018 uncovered the truth about by the Chickens raised in India for food. The report said that the chicken reared in Indian farms are being dosed with some of the strongest antibiotics known to medicine, in practices that could have repercussions throughout the world.

The medicine which is being given to the birds (chicken) is called Colistin in order to protect them from diseases or to make them weight faster. The practice has been going on since long just to earn great profits annually.

According to doctors, colistin is the last antibiotic and is being used to treat patients who are critically ill and whose infection has become resistant to almost all other drugs. So colistin is the end of antibiotic category drugs. The drug has been used in extreme cases of infections.

However, in India, the case is different. Drugs in this category are shipped to India each year without medical regulation. Chicken in Indian farms is fed with this drug so that the bird gains weight and medical experts believe that the consequences of the rampant use of colistin will be felt throughout the world because resistance to strong antibiotics is spread among organisms.

The findings drawn from the study conducted by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism are disturbing because its use can lead to increased resistance among farm animals throughout the world. Colistin, a dose antibiotic is a weapon to eliminate infection-causing microbes like pneumonia and the persistent use of colistin or its traces found in the food could be harmful.

Further, major adverse effects of the systemic use of colistin in humans are nephrotoxicity (acute tubular necrosis), and neurotoxicities such as paranesthesia, dizziness/vertigo, weakness, visual disturbances, confusion, ataxia, and neuromuscular blockade, which can lead to respiratory failure or apnoea.

(http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Report/2013/07/WC500146813.pdf)

The impact of colistin is such that the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended to restrict the drug in animals and be banned as growth promoter since the drug is “critically important to human medicines. The persistent use of this drug in farming increases the chance of bacteria developing resistance to them, leaving them useless when treating patients.

Since the drug is dangerous and has been banned, yet thousands of tonnes of veterinary colistin is shipped to Vietnam, India, Russia and Korea in 2016 as per the sting operation conducted by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Moreover, in India colistin has been advertised openly by many pharmaceutical companies not a highest antibiotic but as a growth promoter. And one among these pharmaceutical companies are Venky which is a major poultry producer in India. Venky has a distinction of supplying chicken meat directly to KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Domino’s.

According to Timothy Walsh, a global expert on antibiotics resistance and a Professor of Medical Microbiology at Cardiff University said that the Bureau’s findings of the use of colistin in India are “deeply worrying” and termed its use as “complete and utter madness”.

“Colistin-resistant bacteria will spread on the chicken farms, in the air surrounding them, contaminate the meat, spread to the farm workers and, through their faeces, flies will spread it over large distances,” he added.

“Colistin should only be used on very sick patients. Under any other circumstances, it should be thought of and treated as an environmental toxin. It should be labelled as such. It should not be exported all over the world to be used in chicken feed.”

Nowadays drug resistance is the biggest nuisance threat to global health, food security, and development as per the WHO. It is assumed that the drug resistance is expected to kill 700,000 people worldwide — one person a minute. In Asia alone, the over usage of the drug could take the lives of 4.7 million people and can hinder procedures like joint replacements, Caesarean sections, organ transplants and chemotherapy could also become risky.

Further, India has been the hub of the global drug resistance crisis. Unregulated sale of drugs for humans without prescription or diagnosis has added another dimension to drug usage in India. Pollution and open waste on the banks of rivers and other water bodies have worsened the scenario. If the problem is not dealt harshly now, it could spread its tentacles all over.

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