Author(s): Cabello FC
The accelerated growth of finfish aquaculture has resulted in a series of developments detrimental to the environment and human health. The latter is illustrated by the widespread and unrestricted use of prophylactic antibiotics in this industry, especially in developing countries, to forestall bacterial infections resulting from sanitary shortcomings in fish rearing. The use of a wide variety of antibiotics in large amounts, including non-biodegradable antibiotics useful in human medicine, ensures that they remain in the aquatic environment, exerting their selective pressure for long periods of time. This process has resulted in the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in aquaculture environments, in the increase of antibiotic resistance in fish pathogens, in the transfer of these resistance determinants to bacteria of land animals and to human pathogens, and in alterations of the bacterial flora both in sediments and in the water column. The use of large amounts of antibiotics that have to be mixed with fish food also creates problems for industrial health and increases the opportunities for the presence of residual antibiotics in fish meat and fish products. Thus, it appears that global efforts are needed to promote more judicious use of prophylactic antibiotics in aquaculture as accumulating evidence indicates that unrestricted use is detrimental to fish, terrestrial animals, and human health and the environment.