By Gift Briton

Scientists have called on Kenyan farmers to consider alternatives to antibiotics use in livestock, including probiotics, vaccinations and disease prevention measures, to mitigate against antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Inappropriate use of antibiotics is associated with AMR development which poses a significant threat to effective infection treatment, in humans and animals, leading to increased morbidity and mortality rates, as well as escalated healthcare costs.

CABI scientists led a research study in Kenya to assess farmers’ knowledge and practices on antibiotics in livestock production, knowledge on AMR as well as factors influencing farmers’ knowledge of antibiotic safety and resistance, and antibiotics use.

The study found that eight in ten households use antibiotics in their livestock, and six in every ten of them administer the antibiotics themselves. The scientists also found that most farmers buy antibiotics without a prescription which they use for both therapeutic and nontherapeutic purposes, including as growth promoters and feed enhancers in poultry. Also, the withdrawal periods reported by farmers are shorter than the officially recommended periods.

Further, although most farmers reported risky antibiotic practices, most (76%) were well aware of bacterial AMR. Most of the knowledge statements on AMR and the safe use of antibiotics were answered correctly by up to 89% of the respondents, indicating considerable farmer knowledge on different aspects of antibiotics risk, while certain knowledge gaps remain.

The scientists observe that although Kenya has evolved, over the last decade, to educate farming communities on the risks and requirements associated with antibiotic use in livestock, farmers’ antibiotic practices continue to constitute a considerable risk of increase in AMR.

According to the scientists, this shows that knowledge alone is not enough to ensure fundamental behavioural change.

Harrison Rware, lead author on the study, noted:  “There needs to be an enabling environment driven by effective policy interventions and enforcement to ensure compliance with set guidelines for antibiotic use, continued public awareness raising and education using multiple channels to reach farmers, research on and deployment of alternatives to antibiotics, and strengthened cross-sector, multi-stakeholder collaboration to address the multi-dimensional complexities of AMR.”