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Uganda Acquires Nuclear Machine to Detect Drug Residues

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The machine will enable UNBS to analyse and quantify drug residues. Liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry technique is used to detect and identify very low concentration levels of chemicals, in this case food contaminants, and distinguish them from other material.
18 Jul 2017 18:05
Nakibuuka Mary Magadelene, one of the technicians trained by the International Atomic Energy Agency in using nuclear application in food safety.

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Uganda national Bureau of Standards-UNBS has received a brand new nuclear-derived machine from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to put in place veterinary and food safety surveillance systems. 

Foods such as chicken, beef, and eggs could be contaminated with antibiotics, leading to drug resistance in humans. The new technology will be used to quickly analyse the foods for veterinary-related drugs.   

Currently, UNBS lacks capacity to rapidly detect drug residues in beef, eggs, milk and pork, which compromises the safety of consumers. However, this may soon end with the acquisition of the Liquefied Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (LCMSMS) from IAEA valued at over 1.8 billion Shillings.

The machine will enable UNBS to analyse and quantify drug residues. Liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry technique is used to detect and identify very low concentration levels of chemicals, in this case food contaminants, and distinguish them from other material.

Mary Nakibuuka, a Senior Analyst at Uganda National Bureau of Standards, told URN on the sidelines of the ongoing Africa Nuclear meeting at the Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo on Tuesday, that the support from the IAEA will boost their analysis capacity for a wider scope of diseases, veterinary drug residues and other contaminants.  She says the technology will be handy given the rising food safety concerns like cancer among others. 

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The Liquefied Chromatography Mass Spectrometer (LCMSMS) according to Nakibuuka is arriving in the country as part of the technical support from IAEA to enable Uganda use nuclear technology for safe and peaceful means. The new machine according to Nakibuuka is an addition to a range of others procured by the global energy body.

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Veterinary antibiotics effectively treat and prevent a variety of bacterial diseases. Unfortunately, antibiotic residues can persist in animal products like milk and meat, ultimately posing a health risk to consumers.  Studies indicate that residues of the chemicals may remain in the meat and enter the human food chain - hence the importance of food safety surveillance. 

Uganda is currently faced with tightened European Union sanitary requirements on beef imports and agriculture products because of farmers' misuse of vaccines and veterinary drugs to control animal diseases. They also use pesticides to control weeds in fields whose crops are fed to livestock.

A study in Wakiso District revealed that 96.7% of the poultry farmers use antibiotics in their chickens with 30% sourcing them from veterinarians and 63.3% from para-veterinarians. 

Another study in Ngoma Sub County in Nakaseke District found that antibiotic access by over 80% of farmers was through "drug shops" with only 25% of these being run by veterinarians.

Over 97% of farmers would self-medicate livestock in an emergency. The most commonly used antibiotics were tetracycline and penicillin.