The senior inspector at Uganda’s National Drug Authority (NDA) on Wednesday informed MPs in the East African nation that the organization has for years been aware that livestock have been fed anti-retroviral drugs.
According to BBC, the disclosure by NDA senior inspector Amos Atumanya comes after a recent study by Makerere University’s College of Health reported that some animals in Uganda were being made to consume some drugs to treat certain sicknesses and also fatten them.
The study by the university also shared quotes by people who said pigs grew quicker and bigger after they were fed the anti-retroviral drugs, adding that they also usually did not fall ill. The study is being investigated by the parliamentary committee on HIV/Aids.
Atumanya told the MPs that the NDA launched an investigation after members of the public raised alarms in 2014. And though it was ultimately established that pigs and chickens had indeed been fed anti-retroviral drugs, the report wasn’t made public.
“There were some concerns that if we blow it out of proportion, what would this mean for the economy in terms of if we are going to be exporting food as a country? So we were trying to find other means in which we could manage that situation,” Atumanya explained.
The NDA report found that the anti-retroviral drugs were mostly used as treatment for African swine fever, BBC reported. The disease, which affects pigs, is incurable at the moment. The report also determined that chickens were also given the ARVs to treat Newcastle Disease.
Newcastle Disease is a “highly contagious and often severe disease found worldwide that affects birds including domestic poultry”, per the World Organisation for Animal Health. The study by Makerere University’s College of Health stated that tests were conducted on chicken tissue and pork obtained from markets in the capital Kampala as well as the city of Lira. The tests found ARV residue in 33.3% of chicken tissue and 50% of pork.
There are, however, some worries about consuming such food, with one being that people who are on ARV medication and eat food containing the residue could become resistant to the drug, BBC reported. Funding from donors who make such drugs available could also be put at risk.
The NDA’s decision to not make its initial findings public drew the ire of social media users in the wake of the parliamentary session. A spokesperson for the NDA, however, said the organization has since initiated many operations to particularly tackle drug misuse in animals.
“The ongoing operations… have led to several arrests and prosecution of the culprits,” the spokesperson said.