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Story of impact

Antibiotic resistance: A growing killer of poultry

For a long time, poultry farmers in Uganda have cried foul over sporadic deaths of their birds. Stories from most farmers indicated that the birds would first present with cough and flu-like symptoms before dropping dead. Many farmers have been forced to quit the business.

In response to this, the project followed up the matter with veterinary experts and on October 31, 2021, published a full-page story explaining the leading cause of the deaths. The experts explained that most deaths resulted from antibiotic resistance, whereby birds are no longer responsive to the available antibiotic drugs, leading to deaths and causing losses to farmers.

It was revealed that 70% of the chicken from eastern and central Uganda were resistant to antimicrobial drugs. The resistance to tetracycline alone for chicken from the central Uganda was 51% and 55% for those in eastern. This was blamed on repetitive use of antibiotics and application of wrong dosages.

Besides farmers having to always seek advice from veterinary officers before using antibiotics, the story advocated proper hygiene and biosecurity systems at the farm to prevent bacterial infections and antibiotic resistance. It recommended practicing the battery cage system since it keeps birds from direct contact with the likely infectious poultry droppings.

The story enlisted various reactions from the public, causing the government to step up efforts to avert the unregulated use of antibiotics in the poultry sector. The following month, November 2021, the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries announced a ban on importation and use of antibiotics as poultry feed additives. The ministry also warned farmers against using antibiotic drugs without prescription by veterinary experts.

The story was published by New Vision in Uganda as part of the CABI, SciDev.Net and Robert Bosch Stiftung science journalism project.