Local scientists warn of health risk on animal antibiotics use

Thursday April 20 2017

Butchers sorts goat and sheep meat at Kiamaiko on December 24, 2016. FILE photo | nmg

Butchers sorts goat and sheep meat at Kiamaiko on December 24, 2016. FILE photo | nmg 

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The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has warned that increased use of antibiotics to boost growth of animals is endangering the health of meat consumers.

Kemri’s Director for Microbiology Research Sam Kariuki on Thursday said that 70 per cent of antibiotics sold over the counter are being used to boost animal growth and not for treatment of infections in animals.

The animals are later sold to unsuspecting consumers. The heavy use of the drugs is blamed for increased cases of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” said to cause thousands of deaths every year and prolonged illnesses globally.

Mr Kariuki said two in every three farmers in Kenya are administering antibiotics, ignoring the set veterinary and regulatory requirements. He spoke at an animal welfare roundtable in Nairobi organised by the World Animal Protection.

“In the past 20 years we have been doing research on use of antimicrobial (to treat and prevent infection) in livestock, over time we have discovered that the level of antibiotic-resistance for common microbials (viruses and bacteria) has risen sharply. This is because of misuse of antibiotics,” said Mr Kariuki, who is also the local Chairman for Global antibiotic resistance partnership.

“In the chemist you will find all these drugs being sold under the label of boosters and rarely will the chemist’s label them out rightly as antibiotics.”