FAO’s AMR surveillance report in fisheries & Livestock

News Excerpt:

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) published the surveillance data of the Indian Network for Fishery and Animal Antimicrobial Resistance (INFAAR) for 2019-22.


  • INFAAR is a network of laboratories established under ICAR and technical support from FAO and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), dedicated to AMR surveillance in fisheries and livestock sectors. 
  • Currently, INFAAR has 20 laboratories, including 17 ICAR Research Institute Laboratories, one Central Agriculture University Laboratory, one State Agriculture University Laboratory, and one State Veterinary University.

What is Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)?

  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of microorganisms to persist or grow in the presence of drugs designed to inhibit or kill them. 
  • These drugs, called antimicrobials, are used to treat infectious diseases caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoan parasites.
  • When microorganisms become resistant to antimicrobials, standard treatments are often ineffective, no drugs provide effective therapy, and consequently, treatments fail. 
  • AMR can spread among different hosts and the environment, and antimicrobial-resistant microorganisms can contaminate the food chain.

Key production systems in fisheries:

  •  According to FAO definitions of aquaculture environments, three key production systems were covered: 
    • Freshwater systems include freshwater bodies like rivers or lakes, where salinity is typically below 0.5 percent. 
    • Brackish-water systems involve sources such as estuaries and bays, where salinity ranges between 0.5 percent and full-strength seawater. 
    • Marine production systems involve seawater environments, with salinity typically exceeding 20 percent.

Methodology adopted in the report:

  • The panel of antibiotics tested included amikacin, ampicillin, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, aztreonam, cefotaxime, cefepime, cefoxitin, ceftazidime, chloramphenicol, co-trimoxazole, enrofloxacin, gentamicin, imipenem, meropenem and tetracycline.
  • Two types of samples were collected across the three aquaculture systems: 
    • Fish or shrimp samples and pond or seawater samples. 
    • In total, 3,087 farms spanning 42 districts in 12 states of India were included in the survey. 
  • Across all three systems, resistance was profiled for Staphylococcus aureus, coagulase-negative Staphylococcus species (CONS) and Escherichia coli. 

Key findings of the report for Fisheries:

  • Isolates of S aureus, known to cause a broad spectrum of infections in humans, exhibited high resistance against penicillin across all systems — shrimp (94.3 per cent), freshwater fish (91.4 per cent), marine fish (79.2 per cent). 
  • Erythromycin resistance was also observed in freshwater (34.3 per cent), shrimp (40.8 per cent), and marine isolates (18.8 per cent). 
  • Freshwater fish showed notable resistance to ciprofloxacin (54.8 per cent). 
  • For CONS isolates, penicillin resistance across all systems was in the range of 76-91.5 per cent. 
  • In the case of E coli, isolates from freshwater were susceptible to most antimicrobials, and exhibited moderate resistance mainly against ampicillin in shrimps. 
    • In marine samples, they showed higher resistance to cefotaxime and cefpodoxime as compared to freshwater and shrimp samples.

Key findings of the report for Livestock:

  • The major food-producing animals included in this surveillance were cattle, buffalo, goats, sheep, pigs, and poultry. 
  • Out of a total of 5,983 samples across 32 districts that were collected, 2,076 E coli and 1,244 Staphylococcus isolates were characterised for their AMR profile using the same antibiotic panel as in the fisheries surveillance. 
  • In E coli isolates, notable resistance was against cefotaxime and ampicillin. 
  • Both S aureus and CONS isolates showed around 75 per cent resistance to penicillin. 
  • In addition, 41 of the total S aureus isolates were found to be methicillin-resistant S aureus (MRSA), a drug-resistant variant of Staphylococcus. 

Multidrug resistance analysis:

  • The report analysed multidrug resistance (MDR) patterns in E coli isolates of aquaculture origin, revealing that 39 per cent of isolates exhibited MDR, which indicates resistance to three or more antimicrobial classes. 
  • MDR was also detected in E coli isolates from food animal samples. 
    • The most prominent MDR was observed against a combination of cefotaxime-enrofloxacin and tetracycline, with approximately 15.8 per cent of poultry isolates exhibiting this simultaneous resistance.
  • Isolates of extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL) producing E coli and isolates of AmpC type β-lactamase producers were also identified in the study. These pathogens are associated with MDR.

Major Highlights of the report:

  • The report showed low levels of resistance in both the fisheries and animal sectors to certain less commonly used antibiotics (such as chloramphenicol). 
  • It also documented notable levels of resistance to macrolides which are a class of drugs used to manage and treat various bacterial infections. 
  • These observations suggest the need for judicious antibiotic use in food animal production systems like aquaculture and livestock. 

Why is AMR a serious concern?

  • Antimicrobial medicines are the cornerstone of modern medicine. 
  • The emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens threaten our ability to treat common infections and to perform life-saving procedures including cancer chemotherapy, caesarean section, and other surgeries.
  • In addition, drug-resistant infections impact the health of animals and plants, reduce productivity in farms, and threaten food security.
  • AMR has significant costs for both health systems and national economies overall. 
  • It creates a need for more expensive and intensive care, affects the productivity of caregivers through prolonged hospital stays, and harms agricultural productivity.  
  • AMR is a problem for all countries at all income levels. Its spread does not recognize country borders.


While acknowledging the limited coverage of all regions in India in this surveillance, the INFAAR report underscored that it provides baseline data for further understanding AMR trends in India in the animal food sector and for evaluating the effectiveness of interventions.

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