Antibiotic use (ABU) plays an important role in the proliferation of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Global antimicrobial consumption in food production is projected to rise by 67% from 2010 to 2030, but available estimates are limited by the scarcity of ABU data and absence of global surveillance systems. The WHO South-East Asia (WHO SEA) region is at high risk of emergence of AMR, likely driven by intensifying farm operations and worsening ABU hotspots. However, little is known about farm-level ABU practices in the region.
To summarize emerging evidence and research gaps, we conducted a scoping review of ABU practices following the Arksey and O'Malley methodological framework. We included studies published between 2010 and 2021 on farm-level ABU/AMR in the 11 WHO SEA member states, and databases were last searched on 31 October 2021.
Our search strategy identified 184 unique articles, and 25 publications underwent full-text eligibility assessment. Seventeen studies, reported in 18 publications, were included in the scoping review. We found heterogeneity in the categorizations, definitions, and ABU characterization methods used across studies and farm types. Most studies involved poultry, pig, and cattle farms, and only one study examined aquaculture. Most studies evaluated ABU prevalence by asking respondents about the presence or absence of ABU in the farm. Only two studies quantified antibiotic consumption, and sampling bias and lack of standardized data collection methods were identified as key limitations. Emerging evidence that farm workers had difficulty differentiating antibiotics from other substances contributed to the uncertainty about the reliability of self-reported data without other validation techniques. ABU for growth promotion and treatment were prevalent.
We found a large overlap in the critically important antibiotics used in farm animals and humans. The ease of access to antibiotics compounded by the difficulties in accessing quality veterinary care and preventive services likely drive inappropriate ABU in complex ways.
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