Cattle in Botswana

A herd of cattle in Botswana. A new report by ILRI identifies key evidence gaps in our knowledge of antimicrobial resistance in the livestock and fisheries sub-sectors in the developing world (photo credit: ILRI).

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites) develop the ability to continue growing in the presence of an antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal or antiparasitic substance to which they were previously sensitive.

The use of antibiotic drugs to prevent and treat livestock diseases is a key driver for the development of agriculture-related antimicrobial resistance which is now a global public health problem as antibiotics in food animals can enter the food chain and affect the health of consumers and communities.

In developing countries, antimicrobial resistant pathogens are commonly found in animals, animal food products and agro-food environments. However, the lack of national surveillance systems means that we do not have reliable estimates of the true burden of antimicrobial resistant infections in developing countries.

In addition to lack of accurate information on antibiotic use in developing countries, there is limited understanding of the sources of antimicrobial resistance in animal agriculture and the relative importance of different sources.

In order to address these concerns, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has this month (June 2015) produced a report which aims to identify key evidence gaps in our knowledge of livestock- and fisheries-linked antimicrobial resistance in the developing world, and to document ongoing or planned research initiatives on this topic by key stakeholders.

ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace wrote the report which reviews the knowns and unknowns of

  • the prevalence of antimicrobial resistant infections in livestock and fish systems and products;
  • the health and economic impacts of livestock- and fisheries-linked antimicrobial resistance in the developing world;
  • technical capacity in developing countries to assess antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance in the livestock and fisheries sub-sectors;
  • key drivers of antimicrobial resistance in livestock and fisheries production in the developing world; and
  • modalities of reducing antibiotic use and levels of resistance.

She concludes with a call to address the global problem of antimicrobial resistance through an evidence-based approach which includes filling knowledge gaps, careful piloting of interventions and rigorous evaluation of success and failure.

The report was produced by ILRI for Evidence on Demand with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services programme, jointly managed by DAI (which incorporates HTSPE Limited) and IMC Worldwide Limited.

Download the report, Review of evidence on antimicrobial resistance and animal agriculture in developing countries.