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BACKGROUND: The emergence of colistin-resistant Enterobacterales is a global public health concern, yet colistin is still widely used in animals that are used for food as treatment, metaphylaxis, prophylaxis, and growth promotion. Herein, we investigate the effect of colistin-resistant Enterobacterales in Pakistan, global trade of colistin, colistin use at the farm level, and relevant socioeconomic factors. METHODS: We conducted a microbiological, economic, and anthropological study of colistin-resistant Escherichia coli in humans, animals, and the environment and international trade and knowledge of colistin in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, China, India, and Viet Nam. We collected backyard poultry cloacal swabs, commercial broiler cloacal swabs, cattle and buffalo rectal swabs, human rectal swabs, wild bird droppings, cattle and buffalo meat, sewage water, poultry flies, chicken meat, and canal water from 131 sites across Faisalabad, Pakistan, to be tested for mcr-1-positive and mcr-3-positive Escherichia coli. We recruited new patients admitted to Allied Hospital, Faisalabad, Pakistan, with abdominal pain and diarrhoea for rectal swabs. Patients with dysentery and those who were already on antibiotic treatment were excluded. Data for colistin trade between 2017 and 2020, including importation, manufacturing, and usage, were accessed from online databases and government sources in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. We recruited participants from poultry farms and veterinary drug stores in Pakistan and Nigeria to be interviewed using a structured questionnaire. International manufacturing, import, and export data; value analysis; and trade routes of colistin pharmaceutical raw material (PRM), feed additive, and finished pharmaceutical products (FPPs) were accessed from 2017-21 export data sets. FINDINGS: We collected 1131 samples between May 12, 2018, and July 1, 2019: backyard poultry cloacal swabs (n=100), commercial broiler cloacal swabs (n=102), cattle and buffalo rectal swabs (n=188), human rectal swabs (n=200), wild bird droppings (n=100), cattle and buffalo meat (n=100), sewage water (n=90), poultry flies (n=100), chicken meat (n=100), and canal water (n=51). We recruited 200 inpatients at Allied Hospital, Faisalabad, Pakistan, between Nov 15, 2018, and Dec 14, 2018, for rectal swabs. We recruited 21 participants between Jan 1, 2020, and Dec 31, 2020, from poultry farms and drug stores in Pakistan and Nigeria to be interviewed. 75 (7%) of 1131 samples contained mcr-1-positive E coli, including wild bird droppings (25 [25%] of 100), commercial broiler cloacal swabs (17 [17%] of 100), backyard poultry cloacal swabs (one [1%] of 100), chicken meat (13 [13%] of 100), cattle and buffalo meat (two [2%] of 100), poultry flies (eight [8%] of 100), sewage water (six [7%] of 90), and human rectal swabs (three [2%] of 200). During 2017-20, Pakistan imported 275·5 tonnes (68·9 tonnes per year, 95% CI 41·2-96·6) of colistin as PRM, all sourced from China, 701·9 tonnes (175·5 tonnes per year, 140·9-210·1) of colistin as feed additives from China and Viet Nam, and 63·0 tonnes (15·8 tonnes per year, 10·4-21·1) of colistin as FPPs from various countries in Asia and Europe. For Bangladesh and Nigeria, colistin PRM and FPPs were imported from China and Europe. Colistin knowledge and usage practices in Pakistan and Nigeria were unsatisfactory in terms of understanding of the effects on human medicine and usage other than for treatment purposes. China is the major manufacturer of PRM and feed additive colistin and exported a total of 2664·8 tonnes (666·2 tonnes per year, 95% CI 262·1 to 1070·2) of PRM and 2570·2 tonnes (642·6 tonnes per year, -89·4 to 1374·5) of feed additive in 1330 shipments during 2018-21 to 21 countries. INTERPRETATION: Regardless of 193 countries signing the UN agreement to tackle antimicrobial resistance, trading of colistin as PRM, FPPs, and feed additive or growth promoter in low-income and middle-income countries continues unabated. Robust national and international laws are urgently required to mitigate the international trade of this antimicrobial listed on WHO Critically Important Antimicrobials for Human Medicine. FUNDING: Pakistan Agricultural Research Council and INEOS Oxford Institute for Antimicrobial Research TRANSLATION: For the Urdu translation of the abstract see Supplementary Materials section.

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Journal article


Lancet Microbe

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