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Antimicrobial Resistance in Colombia's Livestock Revolution

In common with many low- and middle-income countries, Colombia has seen sharp rises in livestock production in response to rapidly growing domestic demand for food of animal origins. While this 'livestock revolution' promises to enhance food security, reduce poverty, and improve rural livelihoods, there are also questions about its sustainability and wider implications for human and environmental health. Expanding livestock production is associated with a host of negative impacts on biodiversity, carbon emissions, water availability and quality.

As livestock numbers have risen globally, so too has the use of antibiotics and other veterinary medicines (VM) in animal husbandry. VM has been instrumental in reducing the global burden of livestock disease and delivering the productivity increases necessary to meet the rising demand for food globally, but the World Health Organization (2012) warns that the scale and nature of antibiotic usage in livestock production poses major risks to both human and animal health. As well as undermining food safety and environmental quality through residue contamination, the pervasive use of antibiotics in agriculture creates strong selective pressures favouring the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotic drugs used for treating disease. Such antimicrobial resistance (AMR) threatens to cast us back into the dark ages of medicine without effective antibiotic treatments.

Undertaken in partnership with:

Dr. Maria Escobar-Tello (CoI and lead researcher)

Dr. José Miguel Acosta-Barbosa (consulting veterinarian)

Academia Colombiana de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales

BPG Desarrollo Rural y Agronegocios S.A.S

Consejo Nacional de la Leche y Prevención de la Mastitis


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This project combines interview, observational, survey, and documentary analysis methods to achieve these more specific research objectives (ROs):

RO1. Explore animal husbandry practices and their implications for animal health, farm incomes, use of VM, and AMR risk across two different milk production systems (extensive, dual-purpose, i.e. meat and milk, and intensive & specialised, i.e. milk only)

RO2. Analyse prescribing practices and the formal and informal networks through which VMs are sourced, circulate, administered and then accounted by veterinary professionals and by food and pharmaceutical markets

RO3. Evaluate the regulatory systems in Colombia for ensuring animal health, food safety, and appropriate prescription and use of VM

RO4. Build a wider network to support behavioural change interventions in Colombia and across Latin America for improving the control and use of VM 


Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of a new cross-council Antimicrobial Resistance Initiative,  this project will support international efforts to address the AMR crisis and support poverty alleviation in low and middle-income countries like Colombia by improving understanding of the behavioural factors influencing the control and use of VM, which is a major contributing factor in the emergence of AMR.