KENYA – A study published in Scientific Reports has brought to light concerning levels of antibiotic residues in milk across the central Kenyan highlands, surpassing global standards and posing significant risks to both human health and the agricultural sector.

Conducted between February 2020 and October 2021, the research sheds light on the widespread use and potential misuse of antibiotics in smallholder dairy farming, underscoring the urgent need for coordinated interventions.

The study highlights the prevalent use of antibiotics among dairy farmers, often as a quick fix to manage livestock health issues.

With animal husbandry accounting for a substantial portion of global antibiotic consumption, projections indicate a worrisome increase in usage by 2030, leading to heightened risks of antibiotic-resistant bacteria development, according to the study.

The overuse of antibiotics in food animal production poses dual threats: the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and potential transmission to humans through contaminated food and water sources.

Sub-Saharan Africa bears a significant burden of antibiotic-resistant infections, emphasizing the critical importance of addressing this issue.

Key findings and risks to consumers

The study detected nine antibiotics in milk samples, with some exceeding global standards. Such residues, even at low levels, can pose health risks to consumers, particularly those allergic to specific antibiotics. Prolonged exposure to these residues further exacerbates the risk of antibiotic resistance development.

Additionally, the study examined the quality of antibiotics available in veterinary drug stores, revealing alarming rates of poor-quality or counterfeit drugs. This not only compromises treatment efficacy but also heightens the likelihood of antibiotic resistance emergence, posing challenges for both animal health and public safety.

Call for action

According to the researchers, the findings underscore the imperative for stringent regulation of antibiotic sales, enhanced veterinary oversight, and farmer education on responsible antibiotic use.

Strengthening surveillance systems for antibiotic residues in milk, alongside quality control measures for antibiotics, is also paramount to safeguarding public health and agricultural productivity.

Given Kenya’s significant role in milk production and consumption, addressing antibiotic misuse in livestock is crucial for both farmers and the national economy, asserts the study.

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