Use of livestock manure blamed for dangerous bugs in Nairobi

In the new study, almost half of the tested E coli were resistant to many of available antibiotics with their presence linked to livestock manure.

Livestock manure has been linked to some drug resistant disease-causing bugs found in Nairobi County.

A study by the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and other researchers has confirmed the presence of hard-to-treat E.coli bacteria among humans and livestock in Nairobi.

This evidence might give new impetus to recent government proposal to punish those who use raw manure for farming.

In May, the Agriculture ministry, county governments and the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) drafted a Bill proposing to make use raw manure illegal.

 “A grower shall not use raw animal manure for the production of food crops,” the draft said in part.

The draft Crops (Food Crops) Regulations Bill, 2018, was quickly shelved for more public participation following a huge public outcry against the proposal.

In the new study, almost half of the tested E coli were resistant to many of available antibiotics with their presence linked to livestock manure.

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Escherichia coli or E. coli causes severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting but can also lead to pneumonia, urinary tract infections or breathing problems.

Hospital visits

Last year, 3 million and 2.2 million hospital visits throughout Kenya were due to diarrhea and urinary tract infections respectively.

Scientists in the new study collected and tested E.coli from humans and livestock in 33 sub-counties of Nairobi.

The samples were also tested for resistance to 13 medicines used to treat the bacteria both in humans and animals.

The study led by Dishon Muloi of the University of Edinburgh, UK, found 47.6 per cent of isolated bacteria resistant to three classes of antibiotics while 21 per cent resisted more than five types of antibiotics.

“Our findings revealed a high prevalence of antibiotics resistant E. coli circulating in healthy humans and livestock in Nairobi,” says the study which will appear soon in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.

Antibiotics resistance

Highest antibiotics resistance was found in humans, pigs and poultry in that order. Other animals that were tested included cattle, rabbits and goats.

The authors, however, say there was no link between keeping livestock and resistant E. coli but rather a link to the handling of animal waste.

The study found less bacteria in households with good livestock waste disposal practices such as keeping animal waste outside the household perimeter.

“Measures to reduce the flow of bacteria to and from manure to humans such as safe disposal and manure pre-treatment prior to application onto crop farms should be adopted,” recommends the study.

The authors attribute the high prevalence of drug resistant bugs found in the study to unregulated access to antibiotics and poor hygiene, sanitation and waste management.

The situation, the team says, is worsened by an unlimited availability of over-the-counter medicines where self-medication or inappropriate prescribing is common.

The team also found evidence of some antibiotics such as chloramphenicol which are banned for use in food animals in Kenya may still be in use.

The study was carried out by a group called Urban Zoo Project involving the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute, University of Liverpool, UK, University of Oxford, UK, and the University of Nairobi.

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UN Food and Agriculture Organisation