The Tanzania Times
Eastern Africa News Network

How millions of Tanzanians consume killer drugs through their favourite foods

Food is usually regarded as source of life and nourishment.

Not anymore, that favourite plate of delicacy is also slowly but surely turning out to be a deadly passport to the next world.

Majority of Tanzanians are reportedly dying through consuming antibiotic drugs indirectly and unknowingly, setting the stage for future health bombs in the country.

Our investigations indicate that Tanzania could be among the countries that will be drastically affected when the entire world loses over 10 million people from mass deaths arising by drug resistant pathogens by the year 2030.

Experts say the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials are the main catalyst in the development of drug-resistant pathogens, adding that over 70 percent of human health ailments are currently being transferred from animals, especially livestock.

You are what you eat

Professor Robinson Mdegela from the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Public Health at the Sokoine University in Morogoro reveals that most people’s intake of antibiotics is through the consumption of meat from domestic animals that are continuously injected with the drugs.

Prof. Robinson Mdegela

According to the scientist, Poultry, Cattle and Pigs are the animals known to be usually infused with high levels of antibiotics by livestock keepers who strive to keep bacterial infections away from their menagerie.

On his part, the Director of Veterinary Services Prof Hezron Nonga reveals that more than 12,000 tons of medicinal drugs get injected into livestock annually, a rather staggering figure and this is more often consumed by people later on their dining tables.

Tanzanians then consume the chemicals indirectly through meat and milk taken from the livestock or their by-products.

Antimicrobial resistance overtaking Malaria as major killer

Globally more than 1.3 people die from cases of drug resistant pathogens which means the problem has so far overtaken Malaria as the leading killer.

The World Health Organization (WHO) report indicates that Malaria kills an average of 610,000 in a year, while HIV and Aids takes 800,000 lives per annum.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has already declared that Antimicrobial resistance is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.

Antibiotics are reported to become increasingly ineffective as drug-resistance spreads rapidly around the world leading to more difficult to treat infections and deaths.

In Tanzania, livestock have been found to be major vehicles behind the serious medical ailments.

Mama Berita Mollel, a resident of Arusha, admits that keeping broiler chicken requires regular infusion of medicinal drugs as they happen to be extremely sensitive to bacterial infections.

“We normally use Tetracycline to treat infections such as coccidiosis,” she reveals, adding that even other livestock keepers use the drug, as well as Amprolium for sheep and goats.

Ms Mollel supplies chicken to hotels, restaurants and even homes.

Tanzania has around 36.7 million cattle, 15.2 million goats and 6.4 million sheep, boasting over 60 million livestock, but according to the Director of Veterinary Services Prof Nonga the country has three two veterinary hospitals.

The country is third in Africa after Sudan and Ethiopia in having the highest number of livestock, especially cattle, on the continent.

The Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Abdallah Ulega o recently revealed that over 50 percent of the Tanzanian Population is made up of pastoralists and other livestock keepers, or at least people who have animals at home

It was among the Ministerial statements tabled during the Third National Antimicrobials Resistance (AMR) symposium, held in Arusha under the theme of ‘Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together.’

Death over the counters

But animals are not only the culprits behind excessive intake of antibacterial drugs among Tanzanians.

It has also been discovered that there is the tendency of people self-prescribing themselves with over the counter drugs without undergoing medical diagnosis and this was also found to be another cause of the Antimicrobials Resistance.

On the other hand, lack of clean water and sanitation and inadequate infection prevention and control promotes the spread of microbes, some of which can be resistant to antimicrobial treatment.

The cost of addressing Antimicrobial resistance can be disastrous to the economy because in addition to causing death and disability, AMR results in prolonged illness causing longer hospital stays.

There is also the need for more expensive medicines to combat the pathogens that have resisted earlier drugs which again leads to financial constraints for the victims and their families.

Something Fishy

Livestock keepers sometimes double as fish farmers and usually take chicken, sheep and goats droppings or cattle dung to feed the shoals in the adjacent ponds.

The manure from the kept animals are usually contaminated with the antibiotics previously infused into them because it is partially ingested and the rest excreted.

Now once the fish are fed with the manure eventually they fill the fillets and also becoming sources of the drugs for humans that consume them.

Any Solutions?

Population growth is raising demand for meat and in order to satisfy the needs, farmers are resulting in keeping exotic breeds of livestock that happen to be too sensitive to environmental elements and therefore requiring a series of medical interventions that sometimes result in cases of drug abuse through excessive use.

Farmers need to consult veterinary experts before resulting in administering antibiotics and other medicines to their livestock to avoid excessive usage of chemicals and drug abuse.

It is also advisable to maintain Indigenous species such as traditional cattle and farm chicken that are not only resistant to disease but also withstand other weather elements such as drought and thus being cost saving undertakings in the process

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