NAIROBI: It is becoming extremely difficult to treat children in Nairobi for common diseases because most available medicines are not working, medical experts have said.
Evidence presented Thursday at an ongoing conference in Nairobi indicated high levels of drug failure in treating patients and more so children for common disease such as typhoid and other diarrhea complications.
Kenya Medical Research Institute's (Kemri) Director for Micro-biology Research Sam Kariuki said small scale livestock farmers especially from areas serving Nairobi with poultry and pork products are mostly to blame due to high levels of drug resistance disease causing organisms in meat for sale.
"It is now an established habit by intensive small scale farmers in Thika, Limuru, Gatundu and surrounding areas to extensively feed antibiotics to their animals to increase production of meat and eggs," Dr Kariuki told the meeting.
The Kemri team said they had ample evidence to prove the practice is widespread.
Because of the intense use of human medicines in the animals, Prof Kariuki said they recently found high levels of drug resistance disease causing organisms in meat being sold in Nairobi. The most affected, according to his data, was chicken meat sold in Nairobi followed by pig products and then beef.
He also warned people buying live chicken in street kiosks, which is then slaughtered for them at the same outlets. "The water used to de-feather the chicken can be used on more than 200 birds before it has been changed and in case one of them has a drug resistant disease causing organism, it could endanger the health of may buyers from the source," said Kariuki.
When Kariuki's team moved to establish whether patients in the affected areas have been infected with drug resistant disease stains, they found many cases in Mbagathi sub-country Hospital in Nairobi and Thika sub-county Hospital.
At Mbagathi, the team analysed 325 children with bacteria E. coli, which causes diarrhoea and in some cases kidney failure. Most of the bacteria collected from the children were resistant to more than four of the most common treatments.
"In another study at the Aga Khan Teaching Hospital, Kariuki said a joint investigation identified 15 patients with hard to treat infections caused by the bacteria salmonella. "We have also established a difficulty to treat typhoid strain circulating in Nairobi indicated to have been imported from East Asia," said Kariuki.
Godfrey Lule of the University of Nairobi explained that the problem of antibiotics resistance could be the biggest facing the health sector today. "While drug resistance is largely a natural process, it has been speeded up by misuse of medicines, poor drug regulation and poor patient adherence."
Prof Lule, a member of the multi-sector National Antimicrobial Stewardship Advisory Committee, said in the long run; there should be a law banning the sale of cover-the-counter of anti-microbials. This would include anti-biotics and antivirals.
He said though the country lacks comprehensive data, the situation is very bad considering there are some common HIV medicines in the country where resistance is suspected to be as high as 67 per cent.
"We are planning to roll out public awareness campaigns on the rational use of medicines among health workers, pharmacists and patients," said Lule.
The meeting was told that almost half of children and infants admitted at the Intensive Care Unit of Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) were found to carry the much feared drugs resistant bacteria known as MRSA.
According to Dr Samuel Rutare of the University of Nairobi, his team had recruited 150 patients at the paediatric and infant ICUs at KNH and found high levels of MRSA.
Another team from the University of Nairobi told of finding high levels of MRSA among health workers at KNH.