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FAO and ICAR Releases First Comprehensive National Report on Antimicrobial Resistance in Indian Fisheries and Livestock Sector

The findings highlight the critical need for informed policy interventions to mitigate the spread of AMR in India's fisheries and livestock sectors.

Saurabh Shukla
FAO and ICAR Releases First Comprehensive National Report on AMR in Indian Fisheries and Livestock Sector (Photo Source: Pexels)
FAO and ICAR Releases First Comprehensive National Report on AMR in Indian Fisheries and Livestock Sector (Photo Source: Pexels)

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) have jointly published a pioneering report shedding light on the concerning trends of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) within India's fisheries and livestock sectors. The report, encompassing surveillance data from 2019 to 2022, marks a significant milestone in understanding and addressing the challenges posed by AMR in fisheries and livestock sectors.

INFAAR: Leading AMR Surveillance in India

At the forefront of this initiative is the Indian Network for Fishery and Animal Antimicrobial Resistance (INFAAR), established under ICAR in 2017. Backed by technical assistance from FAO and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), INFAAR operates a network of laboratories dedicated to monitoring AMR in aquaculture and veterinary practices. The main goal of the program is to devise strategies for curbing the emergence and spread of AMR, safeguarding both animal and human health as well as food safety across India.

Insights from Surveillance Data

The surveillance initiative incorporated a wide-ranging assessment, spanning 20 laboratories, including prominent research institutions and universities across the country. Freshwater fish samples were meticulously collected from farms situated in 28 districts across 7 states (Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, and Andhra Pradesh), providing a comprehensive snapshot of AMR prevalence in different geographic regions.

The report provides a comprehensive analysis of AMR prevalence across various production systems within the fisheries and livestock sectors. Notably, antibiotic usage in food animal production emerges as a significant driver of AMR, particularly in intensively managed farming systems. By examining data from freshwater, brackish water, and marine environments, the report offers valuable insights into resistance patterns among key bacterial pathogens.

AMR has been linked to the use of antibiotics in food animal production. The data showed concerning insights into antibiotic usage patterns, particularly in organized and contractual farming systems where intensive production practices prevail. Notably, antibiotic resistance was observed across various aquaculture environments, with freshwater fish exhibiting significant resistance against commonly used antibiotics such as penicillin and erythromycin.

Key Findings in the Fisheries Sector

In fisheries, the production systems covered: freshwater, brackish-water, and marine.

A panel of antibiotics was subjected to testing, including amikacin, ampicillin, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, aztreonam, cefotaxime, cefepime, cefoxitin, ceftazidime, chloramphenicol, co-trimoxazole, enrofloxacin, gentamicin, imipenem, meropenem, and tetracycline.

Samples were collected from two main sources across the three aquaculture systems: fish or shrimp samples and pond or seawater samples. The survey encompassed a total of 3,087 farms spread across 42 districts in 12 states of India.

Resistance profiling was conducted for Staphylococcus aureus, coagulase-negative Staphylococcus species (CONS), and Escherichia coli across all three systems. Furthermore, Aeromonas species were analyzed in freshwater systems, while Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio sp. were assessed in both shrimp aquaculture and mariculture.

The total number of bacterial isolates analyzed amounted to 6,789, comprising 4,523 freshwater, 1,809 shrimp, and 457 mariculture isolates.

Isolates of S. aureus exhibited significant resistance to penicillin across all systems, with rates ranging from 79.2 percent in marine fish to 94.3 percent in shrimp. Erythromycin resistance was also observed across all systems, with freshwater showing the highest percentage at 34.3 percent. Additionally, freshwater fish displayed notable resistance to ciprofloxacin at 54.8 percent.

CONS isolates showcased varying degrees of resistance across systems, with penicillin resistance ranging from 76 to 91.5 percent. E. coli isolates from freshwater exhibited moderate resistance to ampicillin at 39.2 percent, while marine samples showed higher resistance to cefotaxime (54.1 percent) and cefpodoxime (66.9 percent) compared to freshwater and shrimp samples.

Resistance patterns for Vibrio sp. were documented in shrimp and marine fish samples, with notable resistance against ampicillin (56-59 percent) in shrimp samples and cefotaxime (approximately 56 percent) in marine samples. Aeromonas species, studied solely in freshwater fish samples, mainly displayed resistance against cefoxitin at 42.7 percent.

Implications for Livestock Sector

The surveillance of major food-producing animals included cattle, buffalo, goat, sheep, pigs, and poultry. A total of 5,983 samples were collected across 32 districts. Among these, 2,076 E. coli and 1,244 Staphylococcus isolates were characterized for their antimicrobial resistance (AMR) profile using the same antibiotic panel as in the fisheries surveillance.

In E. coli isolates, significant resistance was observed against cefotaxime (46 percent) and ampicillin (41 percent). Both Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and coagulase-negative staphylococci (CONS) isolates exhibited approximately 75 percent resistance to penicillin. Moreover, 41 out of the total 452 S. aureus isolates were identified as methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), a drug-resistant variant of Staphylococcus.

Isolates from poultry origin demonstrated higher resistance rates for all tested antibiotics compared to other food animals. This included ampicillin (53 percent), cefotaxime (51 percent), tetracycline (approximately 50 percent), nalidixic acid (47 percent), and enrofloxacin (41 percent).

Multidrug Resistance Analysis

The report also explores into multidrug resistance (MDR) patterns, revealing concerning trends both in aquaculture and livestock settings. Approximately 39% of E. coli isolates from aquaculture origins exhibited MDR, indicating resistance to multiple antimicrobial classes. Additionally, a significant proportion of poultry isolates demonstrated simultaneous resistance to key antibiotics, underscoring the urgency of addressing MDR in animal farming.

The report advocates for judicious antibiotic use and emphasizes the importance of ongoing surveillance efforts in monitoring AMR trends. By leveraging the data provided in the report, policymakers can formulate targeted strategies aimed at preserving the efficacy of antimicrobial agents and safeguarding public health.

The release of this comprehensive report represents a crucial step in addressing the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance in India's animal and fisheries sector. With AMR posing significant challenges to both animal and human health, concerted efforts must be made to implement evidence-based interventions and promote responsible antimicrobial stewardship. 

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