Calls by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to phase out medically important antibiotics used in animal feeds have prompted Malaysia to announce a ban on the use of colistin in animal feed. India is also believed to be on the verge of making a similar announcement.
Last year, the WHO called for an overall reduction in the use of medically important antibiotics in food animal production, recommending they should not be used as growth promoters or for disease prevention.
They did so on the grounds of preserving the effectiveness of the drugs for treatment of humans. Colistin is the last line of defence for severe infection, especially when patients are attacked by superbugs.
The European Union, China, United States and Brazil have all banned its use as a growth promoter but it’s widely used in parts of South East Asia and the Far East.
Malaysian Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub told a recent press conference that colistin will be banned in animal feed from 1 January 2019.
“This is the first step towards prohibiting the use of antibiotics considered critical for humans,” he said.
The Department of Veterinary Services would be monitoring animal farms and processing plants, and if the animals or animal products were found to contain antibiotic residue or other drugs, the operators’ licences would be revoked, the Malaysia Star reported.
Meanwhile, in India, reports suggest that the government has proposed a ban on the use of colistin – which is widely used in the poultry sector as a growth promoter.
Reports claim that India’s Drugs Technical Advisory Board have recommended a ban on its use in an attempt to stem the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance.
The UK’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism carried out an investigation lasts year which found that hundreds of tonnes of colistin were shipped to India in 2016, with the drug being sold by a number of international and domestic pharmaceutical companies without requiring a prescription.
Professor Tim Walsh, a UN advisor on superbugs who discovered a gene known as mcr-1, which gives bacteria the power to gain resistance to drugs, urged the Indian government to ban the colistin.
“In a country where colistin is a common life-saving last resort medicine, the mere notion that colistin is used in poultry production should be viewed as criminal negligence followed by prosecution. What is required is a total and unequivocal world-wide ban on colistin use in animals,” he told the Bureau.