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Citation of this paper

Assessment of antibiotic usage in intensive poultry farms in Wakiso District, Uganda

D Bashahun G M and T Odoch A

Makerere University College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Resources and Bio-Security, PO Box 7062 Kampala, Uganda
Permanent Adress: Jimma University College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, PO Box. 307, Jimma, Ethiopia


A cross-sectional study was carried out in Wakiso district to determine antibiotic usage in intensive poultry farms from December 15th 2013 to January 28th 2014. A total of 30 poultry farmers, three veterinary drug sellers and two veterinary officers were interviewed to collect information related to antibiotic use in intensive poultry farms. The data was analyzed by using SPSS version 20.

Majority (96.7%) of the respondents reported to frequently use antibiotics for their chickens. Ten (33.3%) of the respondents were reported to use antibiotics to promote growth and enhance feed efficiency. Twenty-two (73.3%) of antibiotics used in poultry farms were tetracycline groups. Sixteen (53.3%) of respondents were aware of withdrawal periods of antibiotics. However, most of them were reported to sell/consume their products during with-holding time. This clearly show the risks of exposing of humans to products containing antibiotic residues. Thus, a restrictive use of antibiotics will potentially have a positive contribution for the poultry farmers and consumers of poultry products. Therefore, to regulate the problem, collaborative actions with different relevant stakeholders are the most helpful strategy we recommend.

Keywords: growth-promoter, respondent, tetracycline, withdrawal period


An antimicrobial agent is a chemical compound that in low concentrations can inhibit the growth of bacteria or kill without causing the host significant adverse effect. Antimicrobial agents can be naturally produced by a mold or bacterium, semi-synthetic or synthetically made (WHO/FAO/OIE 2003). Antimicrobial agents have been used for prevention, control and treatment of infectious diseases of animals worldwide and for non-therapeutic purposes, such as growth promotion in food-producing animals in some countries. However, the use of antimicrobials can be linked to the emergence and increasing prevalence of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria (Tamura 2003).

Without the use of antibiotics, bird health and welfare would be compromised and the cost of poultry and poultry products would increase substantially (Deborah 2001). However, the use of antimicrobials in food animals is not without risks (FDA 2013). Poultry farmers use various antibiotics with or without the directives of veterinarians to prevent or treat diseases and enhance production. The increased use of antimicrobials may be associated with misuse and, therefore, increased risk of human exposure to harmful residues (Sasanya et al 2005).

Antibiotics are supposed to be a restricted medicine, used only by trained and authorized professionals. It is however evident that there is widespread to use antibiotics in poultry production in Uganda, especially in the intensive farming systems (Sasanya et al 2005; Rebecca, 2007). The widespread use of antibiotics encourages the growth of antibiotic resistance in pathogen populations. In agriculture, increased resistance to animal antibiotics can lead to more severe outbreaks of disease among animal and poultry populations. Resistant bacteria may cause disease directly or they may pass genetic material associated with resistance on to other bacteria. Consequently, there is concern that the widespread use of antibiotics, including STAs in animals, could promote development of drug-resistant bacteria that could pass from animals to humans, thus posing a danger to human health (MacDonald and Wang 2009; Al-Bahry et al 2013). Increased human infections by resistant foodborne pathogens occur as the resistance micro-organisms increases and as humans are exposed to antibiotics. The increasing prevalence of antimicrobial resistance among these pathogens increases the potential for treatment failures and other adverse outcomes, including death (Anderson et al 2003). Thus, the information and knowledge on use of antibiotics in chicken is necessary to sustain its usefulness and reduce the potential for spread of resistant pathogens.

Materials and Methods

Study area

Wakiso district surrounds Kampala and boarders Mukono in the East, Mubende and Mpigi in the West, Luwero in the North and Kalangala in the South. The study was conducted in five sub counties of Wakiso district of Uganda.Wakiso is located at Latitude of 0 10’South and 1 00’ South and Longitude 32 01’ East and 32 52’ East. The district has a total human population of 1,260,900 and almost 2.8 million chicken (UBOS, 2008). The minimum surface air temperature of the district is 11.0 degrees centigrade while the maximum is 33.3 degrees centigrade. The altitude of the district ranged from 900 - 1,340 meters above sea level (Wakiso District Statistical Abstract 2008/09).

Study design and approach

 A cross sectional questionnaire survey was carried out in Wakiso district intensive poultry farms from 15th December 2013 to 28th January 2014 to assess antibiotic usage in intensive poultry farms. A non-probability sampling method (Purposive and convenient sampling techniques) was used to collect the data. Sample size was determined according to the methods described by Morse (2000) which depended on scope of the study, time, logistics, and the amount of valuable information gotten from individual participants. For this study, the study area (sub counties) andstudy population (poultry farms) were selected purposively and conveniently based on flock size (200 and above chickens per farm), breed (only exotics), management system (Intensive)ability to read and write, keeping of good records and willingness to be interviewed. A sampling frame was a list of farmers obtained from the District Production Office and the data was collected by the assistance of Veterinary Officers working in those areas.

Semi structured questionnaires were administered to 30 selected poultry farmersin five selected sub counties of Wakiso district.Two veterinary officers were interviewedfor most commonly experienced poultry health challenges and frequently used antibiotics in the poultry farms.These two Veterinary Officers were selected, because they were working at District Veterinary Office, actively involved in supervising all sub county’s animal health workers, abattoir workers, veterinary drug vendors and solving livestock health problems. Nine veterinary drug vendors were surveyed to evaluate and ensure that they meet the inclusion criteria for the purpose of achieving the objective of this study. As a result, only three drug shops met the inclusion criteria as they keep better records of drugs sold and were willing to be interviewed to assess the most commonly sold poultry drugs and available poultry drugs in stock.

Data analysis

The data was analyzed by using SPSS version 20. Descriptive statistic (mean, Media, Standard Deviation, Percentage etc.) was used to express prevalence and types of antibiotics used in poultry farms, and practices related to antibiotics.

Ethical Clearance

The study has been approved by College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Bio-security’s (CoVAB), Makerere University ethical committee. The data were collected after informed consent was made with study participants.


Background information

A total of 30 respondents interviewed, majority (73%) were males and their educational background ranged from non-formal education (30%) to University graduates (23.3%). The age of respondents ranged from 35 to 65 and the mean age was 48 with standard deviation of 7 years. The median and modal age of the respondents was 49 and 50 years, respectively. The flock size of the farms were 200 – 500 birds (53.3%), 501-1000 (20%) and above 1000 (26.7%). Twenty-six (86.7%) farmers reported that they used commercially prepared feeds to their chickens.

Prevalence of antibiotic use in intensive poultry farms

Out of 30 respondents interviewed, 96.7% reported frequent use antibiotics to their chicken for prevention and control of different poultry infectious diseases (e.g. Infectious Coryza, Fowl cholera, Salmonellosis etc.). Majority of respondents were described to provide antibiotics to their flocks as a prophylaxis. In addition to this, 33.3% of respondents were reported to use antibiotics to promote growth and enhance feed efficiency (Table 1).

Table 1. Prevalence of antibiotic use in the intensive poultry farms
Description Category Frequency Percent (%)
Antibiotic use Yes 29 96.7
No 1 3.3
Growth promoter Yes 10 33.3
No 20 66.7
Types of antibiotics used and major chicken health challenges

Results presented on Table (2) shows, types of antibiotics used in the poultry farms and major poultry health challenges encountered. Twenty-two (73.3%) of antibiotics analyzed were oxytetracyline groups, which contains different trademarks and formulations, and 26.7% were sulphonamides. Out of 30 poultry producers interviewed, 63.3% (19) were reported that, the most commonly and frequently occurring problems were infectious disease, 13.3% and 23% were cannibalism and deficiency problem, respectively.

Table 2. Types of antibiotics used and major chicken health challenges
Description Category Frequency Percent (%)
Types of antibiotics Oxytetracyclines (5%, 20%, 25%) 22 73.3
Sulfa drugs 8 26.7
Chicken’s health challenges Disease (NCD, I. coryza, Fowl cholera etc.) 19 63.3
Cannibalism 4 13.3
Deficiency (Vitamin; rickets like sign, and poor egg yolk with soft shell) 7 23.3
Respondentspractices on antibiotic usage

Respondents participating in the study were interviewed on practices related to antibiotic use (Table 3). Out of respondents interviewed, 30.0 % and 63.3 % of the farmers reported to use antibiotics following the direction of veterinary doctors and para-veterinarians respectively. However, 6.7% treat their own chickens by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Of the study participants interviewed, 73.3% reported to provide antibiotics to their birds through oral route after they diluted with water, whereas 26.7% practicing both oral and intramuscular (IM) routes. Sixteen (53.3%) of respondents were aware of withdrawal periods of antibiotics. Fourteen (46.7%) participants reported to use for house consumption and/or sell to their customers’ and 53.3% described to dispose their eggs during withdrawal periods of antibiotics. Thirteen (43.3%) poultry producers have records on antibiotic use.

Table 3. Respondentspractices on antibiotic use in the intensive poultry farms
Practices Category Frequency Percent (%)
Consultants/ service providers Vet. doctor 9 30
Para-vets 19 63.3
Farmers 2 6.7
Administration routes Orally with water 22 73.3
Orally + injection 8 26.7
Awareness on withdrawal periods Yes 16 53.3
No 14 46.7
Use of poultry products during withholding time Sell/consume 14 46.7
Dispose 16 53.3
Record keeping Yes 13 43.3
No 17 56.7
Consultation of veterinary officers and veterinary drug sellers

The survey of three veterinary drug seller revealed that, the most frequently sold poultry drugs include: Ox tetracycline, Amprollium, Sulfadimidine, and Multivitamins. The two veterinary officers and three para-veterinarians interviewed reported that the commonly experienced poultry diseases in the study areas were Infectious Coryza, Coccidiosis, New castle disease, Salmonellosis, Infectious bronchitis, and Fowl cholera. In addition to this, veterinary officers listed Oxytetracyclines, Sulphonamides and Amproliumas the most commonly used drugs in poultry farms.


The prevalence of antibiotic usage in intensive poultry farms in Wakiso district was 96.7%. This finding is comparable with the reports of other studies; 59% (Sirdar et al2012), 52% (Turkson 2008) and 90% (Nonga et al2009) who reportedhigh usage of antibiotics in chicken production. Sasanya et al (2005) found that, 58 poultry farmersdescribed to applying antibiotics to their chickens in and around Kampala. The result of the current study was also in agreement with the observation of Idowu et al (2010); in his report 96.5% of respondent were treated their birds with antimicrobial agents.

In this study, 73.3% and 26.7% of antibiotics used in the poultry farms were tetracycline and Sulphonamides respectively. These are available in different trade names and formulations. Other drugs like amprollium, vitamins andanthelminthic were also commonly used by poultry farmers. However, the aim of the study was targeted on antibiotic drugs only. Relatively, similar findings have been reported by several authors. In Tanzania, a study by Nonga et al (2009) reported the use of tetracycline and sulphonamidesin poultry farms at 90% and 85%, respectively, while Turkson (2008) reported as follows: tetracyclines (35.7%), nitrofurans (23.1%), penicillin-streptomycin combinations (18%), and sulphonamides and sulphonamide combinations (8.3%). In another study by Mubito et al (2014), use of tetracyclines was reported at 32.2%, and sulfonamides 20.8%. Comparable results were also reported elsewhere (Mitema et al 2001; Sirdar 2010; and Al-Mazeedi et al 2010).

The current study has revealed that most farmers rely on Para veterinarians for prescription, although some get prescriptions from Veterinary Doctors and a relatively small percentage depend solely on manufacturers’ prescription (Table 3). This results do not completely differ from Nonga et al (2009) reported. However, Olatoye et al (2013) reported finding out 67.9% of respondents treating their own flocks, while Idowu et al (2010) discovered that 88.2% of the farmers had veterinarians for consultation. The variability of results among different studies could be due to the existence of different factors. The constraints to the judicious use of antimicrobial drugs vary widely in different countries. Factors such as lack of legislation, lack of knowledge, lack of resources and lack of veterinary serviceshave been reported by Vuuren (2001).

The current study indicated that 46.7%respondents continue to use poultry products for home consumption and/or sell to their customers. Although this is still high, it is relatively lower than the findings reported by different authors; 100% by Kabir et al (2004),91.1% by Turkson (2008), 95.0% and 80.0% by Nonga et al (2009 and 2010), respectively. However, the frequent use of antimicrobial agents in food animals and non-adherence to antibiotic withdrawal periods is contributing to increasing antimicrobial resistance in foodborne pathogens (Mubito et al 2014; Doyle 2006; Stolker and Brinkman 2005: Donoghue 2003).

On record keeping, 43.3% of the respondents’ keep records. Record keeping is an integral part of the integrated poultry industry (FDA 2001); production records including medication costs, evaluation and outcome are kept and placed in the history of the farm for future reference in determining any changing antibiotic susceptibility patterns. Producers should also maintain their own records of flock treatments (product used, date of use, duration of treatment, dosage, outcome of treatment, etc.) for future reference.

The survey of the three Veterinary drug seller showed that, the most frequently sold poultry drugs were: Oxytetracyclines, Amprollium, Sulfadimidine, and Multivitamins. In addition to this, veterinary officers were asked for common antibiotics used in poultry farms. They believe that, Oxytetracyclines, Sulphonamides and Amprollium were the most familiar drugs used in the poultry farms. Veterinary drug sellers were also asked for the reasons why farmers were frequently purchasing these drugs from them. According to their perception, due to the affordable price, broad spectrum characteristics, and prescriptions obtained from veterinarians.

As the two veterinary officer and three para-veterinarians complained, among the poultry diseases Infectious Coryza, Coccidiosis, New castle disease, Salmonellosis, Infectious bronchitis, and Fowl cholera were most knowledgeablediseases in the study area. The presence of these diseases could be a reason for the frequent use of antibiotics in the poultry farms. However, they are doing blanket treatment thus could be promoting growing antibiotic resistance and exposing humans to residues of animal drugs and the potential negative consequences.

In conclusion, given that there is an increasing use of antibiotics in poultry farms and lack of observing recommended withdrawal periods of antibiotics was observed in Wakiso district. In addition, some farmers were treating their chicken without directives of veterinarians. These practices may increase the misuse and/or overuse of antibiotics and likely to expose humans to products containing antibiotic residues. A restrictive use of antibiotics could have better effects for the poultry farmers and poultry product consumers. Therefore, a strict regulatory action should be implement through collaborative activity with relevant stakeholders are the most helpful strategy we recommend.

Study limitations

The sample size was very small due to lack of a complete and up to date sampling frame. Difficulties in accessing farms and lack of prior studies.The data was collected using a non-random sampling (purposive convenient sampling) due to limited time and financial constraints this could limit its comparison with other studies.


The authors are very grateful to the poultry farm owners in Wakiso district for their co-operation. The assistant provided by Dr Oine, Dr Kalungi and Dr Kirembe is highly appreciated.

Declaration of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Received 19 September 2015; Accepted 12 November 2015; Published 1 December 2015

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