Prelims cum Mains Science & Tech

Antibiotics to grow farm animals raise superbug risk


  • Indian consumers are increasingly at superbug risk as a result of antibiotics being sold in India for the purpose of faster growth of animals



  • A number of veterinary drugs companies have been selling antibiotics to farmers in order to increase the growth rate of animals in India.
  • For instance, antibiotic tylosin is sold to poultry farmers to improve weight gain and feed conversion rate of chicken.
  • Tylosin is known to fuel resistance to erythromycin, which is used to treat chest infections and other human diseases.
  • Another antibiotic Colistin is commonly sold as a growth promoter for chickens.
  • Colistin is used to treat people with infections and has resulted in resistance to almost all other drugs.



  • While, selling of antibiotics for growth purposes in agriculture is banned in Europe and US, exposing Indian consumers to risk of antibiotic resistance by selling these banned drugs in India is practice of double standards by drug manufacturers.
  • Animals reared for meat in the major emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are expected to consume double the amount of antibiotics in 2030 than they did in 2010.
  • However the use of antibiotics in humanĀ medicineĀ and agriculture, to make animals grow faster rather than treat disease are major contributors to growing levels of resistant bacteria.
  • Thus WHO has called for a worldwide ban on the use of antibiotics to increase the growth of farm animals


What is Antibiotic resistance?

  • Antibiotics are produced with the help of microbes to help them compete with other microbes.
  • Antibiotic resistanceĀ is the ability microorganisms to resist the effects of an antibiotic to which they were once sensitive.
  • Antibiotic resistance evolves naturally via natural selection through random mutation.
  • Bacteria and other microbes have developed a variety of ways to resist antibiotics:
    • Some bacteria pump an antibiotic out of their cells as fast as it enters, so it never reaches a lethal concentration inside the bacterial cell.
    • Some have proteins that bind to the antibiotic molecule and block its lethal effect.
    • Third category has enzymes that break down the antibiotic molecules, which are then used as fuel to help the bacteria grow faster.
  • Once such a gene is generated, bacteria can then transfer the genetic information between individuals by plasmid exchange.
  • They will then pass this trait to their offspring, which will be a fully resistant generation.
  • Further microorganisms or bacteria that carry several resistance genes that resist treatment with more than one antibiotic are called multidrug-resistant organisms or superbugs.


Antibiotic resistance in India

  • India is antibiotic popping capital of the world, consuming around 13 billion annually.

Spread of antibiotic-drug resistance in India

  • Self-medicating by indiscriminately prescribing some irrational antibiotic.
  • OTC- Over the counter medication.
  • Over-prescribing of antibiotics by doctors and unregulated use
  • Incomplete antibiotic dosage.
  • Antibiotic use in agriculture and livestock.
  • Bad sanitation practices leading to spread of strains.
  • Lack of regulation of the discharge of antimicrobial waste into the environment.



Steps taken by India to combat AMRĀ 

Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS)

  • Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS) was launched in 2015 by WHO to support the global action plan on antimicrobial resistance.
  • The aim is toĀ support global surveillance and research in order to strengthen the evidence base on antimicrobial resistance (AMR)Ā and help informing decision-making and drive national, regional, and global actions.
  • India has enrolled to GLASS system.


Redline campaign

  • India has launched Red Line campaign to curb over-the-counter use of antibiotics.
  • The idea is to put a red line on antibiotic packages to curb their over-the-counter sale to counter the rising threat of superbugs.


National Action Plan to combat Antimicrobial ResistanceĀ 2017

  • In 2017 India developed a National Action Plan to combat Antimicrobial ResistanceĀ for a coordinated approach to fight antimicrobial resistance.
  • Delhi declaration was signed to adopt the multi-sectoral and inter-ministerial action plan and for collectively strategizing to contain AMR by Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Health & Family Welfare.
  • Objectives include:
  • Enhancing awareness
    • Strengthening surveillance
    • Improving rational use of antibiotics
    • Reducing infections
    • Promoting research
  • In addition, India aims to support neighbouring countries in collective fight against infectious diseases.


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