The paradox of antimicrobial resistance in African livestock
According to official international data, Africa has the lowest antimicrobial use in animals in the world, adjusted by animal biomass. Still, a closer look shows a high prevalence of antimicrobial resistance in foodborne pathogens isolated from animals and animal products in Africa.
A study conducted by researchers from INRAE, CIRAD, ILRI, IRD and the University of Copenhagen sheds some light on the situation. By analysing literature based on qualitative interviews with the farmers, the authors were able to identify a lack of knowledge of the phenomenon of antimicrobial resistance and a tendency to use antimicrobials in their livestock production in an uninformed and even imprudent fashion, without any concern for the risks involved.
Given the increase in the development of livestock farming—to meet growing demand for protein—these practices constitute a serious public health problem.
A call for policies tailored to African farms
The team of researchers advocates for policies that take into account the specific challenges of livestock production in Africa: both for commercial producers and small family farms.
These policies must respond to the dual challenge of simultaneously improving access to veterinary drugs while strengthening regulation of their use on livestock.
On one hand, antimicrobial use in large commercial farms must be regulated. On the other, family farms are struggling to access professional veterinary advice and health treatments. This hampers their capacity to change their practices, adopt innovations, cope with more demanding regulations and higher production standards.
Possible solutions for small farms
Researchers propose to develop strong public policies—that promote access to veterinary services for family farms—and to introduce better regulations for farming practices—that provide access to training and advice from professional veterinarians or paravets.
Stakeholder involvement in participatory approaches—in a one health framework—is essential to ensure the effectiveness of any action plan or regulation, and to protect small family farms.
Researchers also emphasize that an effective application of these policies will depend on a key factor: minimising any adverse health and socioeconomic impact on the farmers’ standards of living, especially in the most vulnerable regions.
Antimicrobial resistance, a global public health issue
Although the routes of transmission of antimicrobial resistance from animals to humans and vice versa have not yet been sufficiently studied in Africa, the situation is of great concern for public health. The likelihood of resistance being transmitted to farmers and consumers through meat and other products of animal origin is high.
In Africa, as anywhere else, the zoonotic contribution to human antimicrobial resistance only adds to the already growing resistance associated with antimicrobials commonly prescribed to humans. Antimicrobial resistance is an issue that affects the whole planet, but it is still too often underestimated.
In fact, the World Health Organization has declared antimicrobial resistance to be one of the top ten global public health threats.
Christian Ducrot, Alexandre Hobeika, Christian Lienhardt, Barbara Wieland, Charlotte Dehays, Alexis Delabouglise, Marion Bordier, Flavie Goutard, Ekta Patel, Muriel Figuié, Marisa Peyre, Arshnee Moodley, and François Roger
Antimicrobial Resistance in Africa—How to Relieve the Burden on Family Farmers
Emerging Infectious Disease Volume 27, Number 10—October 2021
- "Les dossiers d'Agropolis International" - Special Partnership Issue Agroecological transformation for sustainable food systems: Insight on France-CGIAR research n° 26, September 2021
- Article published by CIRAD
- Article published by the IRD (in French)