Ornamental fish face threat of infection as their resistance to antibiotics grows


Researchers want fish farms to curb the blanket use of antibiotics that are fed to popular aquarium species such as ornamental fish. (iStockphoto/iStockphoto)
February 4, 2013
Trouble in the fish tank

Ornamental fish face a rough ride when shipped from their home waters to aquariums around the world. To stave off infection, antibiotic use is widespread in the ornamental fish industry. But the practice is proving increasingly ineffective and contributes to antibiotic resistance in these ornamental fish, according to a study published last month in the Journal of Fish Diseases. Scientists studied the bacteria found in 32 species of freshwater fish that were imported from Singapore, Colombia and Florida, the major hubs for ornamental fish export. They found nine bacterial species that were not susceptible to any of the antibiotics tested. The most effective antibiotic had 16 percent resistance. The least effective drug faced 77 percent resistance. Though the health risks to humans remains low, the bigger problem is that the $15 billion ornamental fish industry will face a growing challenge treating diseased fish as antibiotics remain unregulated. Researchers plan to use this information to educate fish farmers on the need to curb the blanket use of antibiotics in fish feed.

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