4. May 2022

Reducing the use of antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) on poultry farms in Georgia

Facts

Region: Europe Sector: Food & Feed Country: Georgia Project type: Demonstration project Country partners: Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture (MEPA), Georgia, State Laboratory of Agriculture (SLA) Timescale: Feb 1 2022-Jan 31 2025 ICARS funding: 524, 464 USD

Context

Georgia’s National Action Plan (NAP) was developed in 2017 to define a unified policy against antimicrobial resistance. This strategy is being implemented in a coordinated manner by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture (MEPA). Since then, huge strides have been made in the implementation of actions to control the development and spread of AMR in the human health sector Georgia. These include the implementation of modern methods of infection prevention and control (IPC), strengthening the AMR surveillance system, and participating in important AMR surveillance networks such as the Central Asian and European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance Network (CAESAR), and the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS).

Despite strides made in the human health sector, gaps remain in implementing the NAP in the animal sector. Georgia lacks a nationwide surveillance system for monitoring AMR and antimicrobial use (AMU) in the animal sector, there is no direct ban preventing the use of antimicrobials as growth promoters in feed and there is little oversight of the use and sale of antimicrobials. The Ministry of Health collects data on overall quantities of antimicrobials imported into the country, but it is not possible to distinguish use in the veterinary sector from the human sector. AMU in the veterinary sector can only be determined by subtracting the number of antibiotics used for human health purposes from the total amount imported into the country. This figure is likely an underestimate as some antibiotics are manufactured locally and are distributed to veterinary pharmacies which, in contrast to medical pharmacies, can sell antibiotics without a prescription, and business operators and private veterinarians are not required to report this information. Few interventions have been implemented to reduce use of antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) among veterinarians and farmers.

Problem

In Georgia, many poultry farmers and farm veterinarians use large quantities of AGPs. Farmers are accustomed to using antimicrobials for growth promotion and disease prevention, and anecdotally, primarily use them prophylactically to prevent primary bacterial infections and/or secondary bacterial infections following viral diseases. This includes the widespread use of prophylactic antibiotics for day-old chicks upon arrival at the poultry farms. The use of AGPs in feed and the use of welcome antibiotics is currently not banned, regulated or monitored. Thus, many farmers continue to use AGPs and welcome antibiotics indiscriminately.

Project overview

This project is the first attempt to engage poultry farmers in Georgia together with farm veterinarians, and aims to demonstrate that the eliminating the use of antibiotics as growth promoters and welcome antibiotics on broiler farms in Georgia does not compromise animal welfare, productivity and farm income.

This project includes the following components:

  1. baseline data collection on antimicrobial use (AMU)
  2. the intervention consisting of an equivalence trial in which raising poultry without antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) and welcome antibiotics is compared with the current practices of using both for poultry-rearing
  3. economic evaluations
  4. qualitative assessments to understand acceptability, feasibility and likelihood for adoption of phasing out AGPs and welcome antibiotics
  5. capacity building at the State Laboratory of Agriculture (SLA) so that the laboratory is able to appropriately conduct microbiological testing, antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST), and residue-testing
  6. scale up

Outcomes

Findings from this project will be used to develop an amendment for normative acts and will be submitted to the government for approval. Results will also be used to develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) to guide dissemination to the wider community of farmers to show them that poultry can be raised in a Georgian context with reduced quantities of antibiotics, and to support uptake in the poultry industry. Project findings will also inform the barriers and facilitators of uptake among other farms to reduce the use of AGPS and welcome antibiotics, and non-participating farmers will be invited to visit participating farms, to learn from their experiences.

Following the trial, consumers will also be made aware of the option of buying antibiotic-free poultry, to increase demand for this. In addition, this project will strengthen collaboration between the state and private sector by actively engaging farmers and veterinarians. It will also support the implementation of existing regulations, which have otherwise been challenging to implement.

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