Colistin banned in animal food industry

Experts call it a significant move in targeting development of resistance to the antibiotic

Updated - July 20, 2019 10:42 pm IST

Published - July 20, 2019 10:38 pm IST - Chennai

Cutting down on the use of colistin in animals improves the chances of reducing anti-biotical resistance.

Cutting down on the use of colistin in animals improves the chances of reducing anti-biotical resistance.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued an order prohibiting the manufacture, sale and distribution of colistin and its formulations for food-producing animals, poultry, aqua farming and animal feed supplements.

Intensivists across the country are rejoicing as the move is a “massive victory” for the movement against anti-microbial resistance. Colistin is a valuable, last-resort antibiotic that saves lives in critical care units and in recent years, medical professionals have been alarmed by the number of patients who have exhibited resistance to the drug. Therefore, any move to ensure that arbitrary use of colistin in the food industry, particularly as growth supplements used in animals, poultry, aqua farms, would likely reduce the antimicrobial resistance within the country.

The order, issued on Friday, directed manufacturers of colistin and its formulations (since it is also used to treat humans) to affix a label on the container reading thus: Not to be used in food producing animals, poultry, aqua farming and animal feed supplements: on the package, insert and promotional literature.

Late last year, researchers from Apollo Cancer Hospital, Chennai, and Christian Medical College, Vellore, claimed, in a paper in the Journal of Global Antimicrobial Resistance , that samples of raw food lifted from across Chennai had tested positive for colistin-resistant bacteria. One of the authors, Abdul Ghafur of Apollo Hospital, is now dancing in joy. “It is a huge, massive, victory. This is what we have been campaigning for, for years. It is one broad sweep to ensure colistin does not enter the food we eat, and thereby, we don’t develop resistance to the antibiotic,” he says.

A number of experts seem to use superlatives in their response. “This is fantastic, a significant move in targeting the development of resistance,” says V. Ramasubramanian, infectious diseases expert, and medical director, Capstone clinic. “Excessive use of any drug leads to resistance. If you can cut the use of colistin as a growth factor in animals and limit it to therapeutic usage only, the chances of developing resistance to it goes down,” he explains, while pointing out it might be a challenge to implement the order.

Dr. Ghafur says awareness programmes need to be conducted for farmers, telling them about the danger of using colistin in feed. “Most are not aware of the presence of colistin, since it comes mixed in the feed. However, we have had discussions with associations of poultry farmers and they have not objected to removing colistin from the mix.” Also, he argues that since the bulk of colistin (nearly 95%) is imported from China, it would also be easy to stop importing it within a short time.

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