Although Nepal now has a law against antibiotic additives in feed, the ban is not effective because of the open border with India. A recent expose by the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism titled ‘A Game of Chicken: How Indian Poultry Farming is Creating Global Superbugs’ revealed lax controls, and a looming superbug epidemic in hospitals across India.
High bacterial disease burden, overuse of human antibiotics, and no regulation on use of antimicrobials in poultry and livestock means India is sitting on a time bomb, scientists say. And right next door, with no border controls, is Nepal.
The British company Venky exported nearly a thousand tons of the ‘last hope’ antibiotic colistin branded ‘Colis V’ to India and Nepal in 2016 for use in poultry, according to customs data. WHO has recommended that colistin be restricted in animals because it is one of the few drugs that can still treat infections in humans. Two Indian companies also manufacture colistin as antibiotics and growth promoters.
The report quoted Timothy Walsh, professor of Medical Microbiology at Cardiff University as saying: “Colistin is the last line of defence. It is the only drug we have to treat critically ill patients resistant to carbapenems. Giving it to chickens as feed is crazy.”
Carbapenems are last resort antibotics used to fight infections in the bladder, lungs and blood in humans, but more than half of infected patients in India are already resistant to carbapenems and need colistin to get better. Drug resistant infections kill an estimated 58,000 babies in India every year. In Nepal, there is evidence that colistin resistance is spreading among humans (see graph, below).