High Doses of Vital TB Drugs Used in Indian Crops: CSE Report

The large scale use of antibiotics in agriculture could be contributing to the global antibiotic resistance crisis.

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Health News
2 min read
Important antibiotics used in large amounts on crops.
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A recent report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) reveals the alarmingly large-scale use of important antibiotics in crops, including those that have not been approved for its use.

“We found that farmers are unaware about the recommended use and spray antibiotics frequently like pesticides as a regular practice.”
Amit Khurana, programme director, Food and Toxins programme, CSE

The CSE found that Streptomycin and Tetracycline, both of which are vital TB medications are being used indiscriminately in rice, fruits and vegetables.

Tuberculosis (TB) poses a public health crisis in India which houses 27% of the world’s cases and these medicines are unacceptable to a large portion of these TB patients.

Streptomycin has been declared as a critically important antibiotic by WHO.

Farmers in the banks of Yamuna in Delhi, Hisar in Haryana and Fazilka in Punjab have reportedly been using streptomycin and tetracycline routinely in high doses.

Apart from the waste of vital medicines, the report also points to how such extensive use of antibiotics for non-human use contributes to the major global crisis of antibiotic resistance.

Along with certain cases of TB Meningitis, the particular drug is often prescribed to patients of Multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB and their misuse in non humans could potentially undo any progress to fighting MDR-T.

Antibiotic resistance that renders even common bacterial infections difficult to treat/ incurable, is currently one of the biggest global threats.

“Considering the progress made so far, we strongly feel that concrete and timely action is required by Central and state governments to contain AMR, particularly from animal and environmental routes.”
CSE director general Sunita Narain, who was a member of the United Nations Interagency Coordination Group

Another huge concern that large scale non-human antibiotic use poses is antibiotic pollution. Irresponsible use and disposal of important antibiotics escalates resistance to the drugs in the environment which can be transferred to humans as well.

According to the CSE researchers, a possible solution is to extend producer responsibility to facilitate the taking back of unused antibiotics.

India’s five year action plan on AMR outlines a comprehensive multi-sectoral approach to combat AMR.

However, so far, only Kerala and Madhya Pradesh have developed their State Action Plans, while Delhi is working on one of its own.

“For over a year and half, a draft of standards for residual antibiotics in industrial effluents is under review of the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change. It is time that these standards are notified and made enforceable,” says Khurana.

(Written with inputs from The Center for Sciences and Environment)

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