Poultry farmers in India will no longer be able to use Colistin – one of the last resort antibiotics used to treat humans.
The Indian government has banned the use of Colistin in a bid to try and halt the spread of some of the globe’s most deadly superbugs.
It follows a Bureau of Investigative Journalism investigation which revealed that it was widely being used in animal feed to fatten poultry and other livestock. The drug cannot be used as a veterinary medicine for farm animals.
The investigation found that hundreds of tonnes of Colistin were shipped to India in 2016 and that the drug was sold by international and domestic pharmaceutical companies without requiring a prescription.
The Indian Ministry of Health has issued a notification prohibiting the “manufacture, sale and distribution of the drug Colistin and its formulations for food-producing animals, poultry, aqua farming and animal feed supplements as it is likely to involve risk to human beings.”
The ban follows recommendations earlier this year by India’s leading drug advisory body, the Drugs Technical Advisory Board, as well as the National Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan committee.
Dr Abdul Ghafur, an infectious diseases doctor who advises the committee, welcomed the ban: “The Indian government is convinced that Colistin is a ‘last resort’ antibiotics. Colistin resistance is increasing in clinical practice and Colistin is extensively used in poultry and aqua farming as a growth promoting agent”, and such practice should stop.
Scientists believe the discovery inn 2015 of a Colistin-resistant gene that can pass between bacteria originated in livestock in China. It has since been found across 5 continents.
Tim Walsh, professor at Cardiff University, who research team discovered the mobile Colistin-resistant gene, said the Indian ban was a welcome step but monitoring and enforcing it was crucial.
“It shows an element of commitment by the central Indian government, but whether this has any traction at state level or local level remains to be seen. But even if its impact is not what we might hope for, at least it’s adding to a message that we need to once and for all separate those drugs that we use in animals from those that we use in humans.”