Unfortunately, many antimicrobial products have lost their efficacy to treat human and animal disease, since bacteria have become unresponsive to these products. This phenomenon (termed ‘antimicrobial resistance’, or AMR) is a concern worldwide, and generally results from excessive and inappropriate usage of antimicrobials. In animal production, this results in the reduction of our weaponry to effectively treat animal bacterial diseases, leading to severe economic losses on farms. Many of these resistant bacteria or genes encoding for resistant on farms may also be transmitted to humans, resulting in untreatable human disease. ViParc aims at helping farmers in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam raise meat chickens using lesser amounts of antimicrobials.
ViParc study design
ViParc stands for ‘Vietnamese Platform for Antimicrobial Reductions in Chicken production’. ‘Vi’ also stands for ‘Veterinary intervention’. The ViParc project is funded by the Wellcome Trust (Grant Reference No.: 110085/Z/15/Z).
ViParc addresses this problem through a farm-based scientific ‘trial’, where farms from the area are randomly selected, and observed over a period of time, including a ‘baseline phase’ followed by an ‘intervention phase’. The study is to be conducted over three years in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap (Vietnam). Results will be fully evaluated at the end of the intervention phase.
The proposed intervention (delivered through the ‘intervention phase’) will consist of the delivery of a local veterinary support system to those farmers randomly assigned to the ‘intervention arm’, to help them improve farm productivity and reduce disease, therefore reducing also their reliance on antimicrobials. Farmers in the intervention group will receive free training on good husbandry practices, including the prevention and control of poultry diseases, as well as local veterinary support free of charge. In addition, half of the farmers in the intervention group will be asked not to use antimicrobials in feed. We will provide to these farmers with suitable alternatives to prevent disease that may appear as a result of the feed change. Because this study is designed as a scientific trial, a ‘control arm’ is required so that the effect of the intervention can be appropriately measured. This control arm will consist of farms that will not receive free veterinary support. The design of the ViParc study is summarised in the following chart:
Throughout the ViParc project we will collect chicken faecal samples at different stages of production using paper liners. These samples will be investigated in the laboratory for antimicrobial resistance in ‘commensal’ bacteria (i.e. bacteria that do not cause disease problems in chickens) of the gastrointestinal tract of the chickens (Escherichia coli). We will also investigate antimicrobial residues in chicken meat at the end of the production cycle of each crop, and we will take environmental samples as well as post cleaning and disinfection samples in some farms. We will also conduct data collection to help us understand: (1) antimicrobial usage; (2) disease and productivity; (3) levels of antimicrobial resistance in E. coli; and (4) residues of antimicrobials in the meat of the chickens raised.
ViParc will try to address, among others, the following:
1. How and when do farmers use antimicrobials (including in feed) and what is their knowledge about these medicines?
2. How do chicken bacteria become resistant against antimicrobials? What are the most common types of resistance in chicken farms?
3. What is the contribution of hatcheries and inadequate cleaning and disinfection on antimicrobial resistance?
4. Does meat from chickens raised in the study farms contain antimicrobial residues?
5. Does veterinary advice help farmers reduce disease in chicken flocks?
A multidisciplinary team
ViParc is a multidisciplinary research project aimed at addressing antimicrobial resistance in animal production. This is highly pressing ‘One Health’ issue not only in Vietnam, but worldwide. The project, funded by the Wellcome Trust Major Overseas Programme (United Kingdom), is led by Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Ho Chi Minh City and implemented in Dong Thap province through the Sub-Department of Animal Health and Production (SDAHP-DT). The project includes specialists in Veterinary Medicine, Microbiology and Laboratory Science, Animal Health Economics and Public Engagement. Collaborators of ViParc include the University of Liverpool (United Kingdom) (Prof. Jonathan Rushton), Chulalongkorn University (Thailand) (Assoc. Prof. Niwat Chansiripornchai), the University of Barcelona (Spain) (Dr. Alexis Ribas), and the University of Can Tho (Prof. Viet Thu Ho Thi). The study has been approved by the People’s Committed in Dong Thap, by the review board of SDAH-DT, as well as by the OXTREC (Ethics Committee of the University of Oxford) (No. 5121-16).