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Antibiotics in Aquaculture - use, abuse and alternatives

Report that examines the public health hazards linked to the increased usage of antibiotics in aquaculture.
Jaime Romero, Carmen Gloria Feijoó and Paola Navarrete


Aquaculture production is hampered by unpredictable mortalities that may be due to negative interactions between fish and pathogenic bacteria. To solve this problem, farmers frequently use antibiotic compounds to treat bacterial diseases. 

Intensive aquaculture (shrimp and fish farming) has led to growing problems with bacterial diseases, the treatment of which now requires the intensive use of antimicrobials. Although various authors have emphasized the putative negative effects of using antimicrobial agents in fish farms (Alderman and Hastings, 1998; Cabello, 2006), few studies on antimicrobial resistance in the aquaculture industry have been performed in situ. (Fernández -Alarcón 2010, Miranda & Zemelman 2002).

Because a wide variety of chemicals are currently used in aquaculture production, control measures have been introduced over the years. These include disinfectants (e.g., hydrogen peroxide and malachite green), antibiotics (e.g., sulfonamides and tetracyclines) and anthelmintic agents (e.g., pyrethroid insecticides and avermectins) (Rawn et al. 2009). However, disease control is an active research field, and alternatives to antibiotic treatments have been explored.

The public health hazards related to antimicrobial use in aquaculture include the development and spread of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and resistance genes and the presence of antimicrobial residues in aquaculture products and the environment.