Saturday, November 1, 2014

Fish farming-Another case of antibiotic misuse

Development of antibiotic resistance in human beings is becoming an increasing concern world over though it is more acute as being reported, in Western countries where antibiotic tweaked feed is routinely fed to poultry birds and live stock animals. This practice became widespread when the animal food industry realized that such feeds can add significant weights to their birds and animals. Antibiotic resistance is supposed to be developed when popular antibiotics used in human beings are preferred choice of the animal food industry. Many countries are taking appropriate action in restraining the industry from using these antibiotics to prevent serious disease causing pathogens becoming super bugs able to with stand the "kill effect" of such antibiotics. However another instance of serious misuse of antibiotics is reported to be emerging among fish breeders in some countries which has been overlooked earlier, adding new dimension to the problem. Here is a take on this alarming development.  

The concern surrounding animal antibiotics focuses on meat and poultry production, but a new study suggests we should also be paying attention to fish. Researchers at Arizona State University investigated 47 antibiotics in U.S.- purchased shrimp, salmon, catfish, trout, tilapia and swai originating from 11 different countries. Their findings, published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, identified five antibiotics detected in shrimp, salmon, tilapia and trout. Oxytetracycline was the most commonly detected antibiotic compound, and it was found in farmed fish and wild shrimp. The researchers also found 4-epioxytetracycline, sulfadimethoxine, and ormetoprim in certain species and virginiamycin in farmed salmon marketed as antibiotic-free. Lead author Hansa Done, a Ph.D. candidate at ASU's Center for Environmental Security, told that antibiotics are added to the water in fish farms to treat and prevent disease or are directly injected into fish, but that they are not used for growth promotion. The antibiotic levels detected in the study were within legal limits, and the researchers report low risk of drug exposure from seafood consumption, but even the low levels can promote antibiotic resistance. The authors add that publications reporting antibiotic resistance in aquaculture have increased eight-fold over three decades.

It is sad that meat and fish food industries are indulging in such malpractices without caring for the well being of the consumers who after all provide them with their "bread and butter". Of course fish breeders may argue that they are using these antibiotics to make their products safer to the consumers. However this industry is forgetting that residues of antibiotics present in fish so raised can get into human system, slowly creating resistance in many microbes many of them virulent ones capable of inflicting severe health disorders. Similarly the antibiotic containing water where fish is raised is a potential contaminating source for the soil and water around. As most fish in the US market originate from countries like India, Thailand, China, Vietnam etc the implications are clear. Whether antibiotic use is practiced in the US also is not known though one can assume, knowing the attitude of food industry in general there, that US farmers also must be resorting to this practice. It is time suitable international protocols are arrived at for guiding the fish farmers and aqua culture industry for not using antibiotics which are commonly prescribed for treating diseases among human beings.  


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