Antibiotic use by poultry farmers in Kiambu County, Kenya: exploring practices and drivers of potential overuse

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Antibiotic resistance is a global concern threatening achievements in health care since the discovery of antibiotics. In Kenya, this topic remains understudied in a context of rising demand for livestock products, intensification and the concomitant increase in antibiotic use.

A new study published in Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control (Jan 2023) investigated the drivers and practices of antibiotic use in poultry farming. The study was conducted in Kiambu County, Kenya by qualitative research methodology involving focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews.

Of the farmers interviewed, 68% were female, 33% of the sampled farmers could not read, and the majority (85%) of farmers had reared poultry for at least 10 years.

Research findings showed that farmers extensively used antibiotics. Antibiotic use was influenced by factors such as high disease burden, access to medicines and economic pressure.

Common practices included prophylactic use, use of antibiotics to enhance production, self-prescription use, and use of combination antibiotics and antibiotics classified as critically important in human medicine.

Key information sources for the farmers were agro- veterinary dispensers, sellers of day-old chicks and peer-learning.

External factors driving the inappropriate use of antibiotics included access to the antibiotics, influence by marketers such as sellers of day-old chicks, and branding. Use of antibiotics was also driven by economic factors among the farmers, sellers of day-old chicks and agro-veterinary dispensers.

The findings of the study show that there is widespread use of antibiotics among poultry farmers in the Kiambu County. The use of antibiotics is influenced by an interplay of issues at the farmer level as well as broader social, economic and structural level factors.

The authors of the study therefore recommend that a multifaceted One Health approach focusing on regulatory frameworks, knowledge transfer and research be applied to promote the judicious use of antibiotics.

Kariuki, J.W., Jacobs, J., Ngogang, M.P. and Howland, O. 2023. Antibiotic use by poultry farmers in Kiambu County, Kenya: exploring practices and drivers of potential overuse. Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control 12: 3.

Photo credit: Chickens on a poultry farm in Kiambu County, Kenya (ILRI/Hung Nguyen-Viet)

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