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Old 24th January 2013   #1
Christina S. Miller
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Default Atb. resistance in ornamental fish, newish study

This news is not all that surprising. With few fish keepers knowing when and how to use antibiotics and the popularity of "shotgun" antimicrobial treatments instead of quarantine, antibiotic resistance was bound to happen.

Working in a vet clinic, we have several "cat rescues" (read: hoarders) with massive antibiotic resistance in their populations because they use drugs with little discretion (we are not entirely sure where they are getting their antibiotics in such quantities). The incidence of resistant pathogens has increased significantly in the past decade since we've been working with these groups.

This can and does happen in our captive herps (I know of a local breeder who had serious fluroquinolone resistance in her population, the animals suffered but I hope they learned their lesson). I wonder if aquatic amphibians may be more "at risk" because of the availability of OTC fish treatments? I think that resistance may happen more quickly in longer-lived mammals than high-mortality herps and fish in poor husbandry conditions.


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Old 25th January 2013   #2
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Default Re: Atb. resistance in ornamental fish, newish study

I agree, this was inevitable in the fish trade. I would tend to put more of the blame on the large-scale fish producers/distributors, not so much on the availability of OTC fish treatments, which are probably a tiny fraction of the antibiotics used. If a resistant strain evolves at my house, it's most likely not going very far, but if it develops at a wholesale facility it will easily spread all over the world.

I'm not sure about your idea that resistance would happen more quickly in mammals. Resistance will happen anywhere that antibiotics are used regularly (livestock and large-scale fish trade are both obvious candidates). Some resistant bacteria may infect both mammals and fish/herps, and could go back and forth.

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Old 25th January 2013   #3
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Default Re: Atb. resistance in ornamental fish, newish study

A few general thoughts on antibiotics, we are rapidly approaching the post antibiotic era, it is hard to say who is most to blame, some of it is the medical profession, some vets, a bit of small scale OTC misuse and a lot blanket misuse in various insanitary mass rearing setups where antibiotics were often used as growth promoters. They altered gut flora and worked, but the selection pressures they created for resistant organisms were massive.

It looks like inappropriate mass medication in the far east is populating the aquaria of the world with fish laced with resistant bugs. When the keeper then reaches for the OTC miracle kill all it fails! Although the article says the human risk is small some of the resistance plasmids may eventually end up protecting human pathogens. Resistance jumps between organisms.

There have been several documented episodes the spread of resistant bacteria in the pet trade. The red eared terrapin "Ninja Turtle" craze created mass breeding of terrapins with the eggs incubated with gentamycin and while the commercial success was excellent with a low egg mortality gentamycin resistant salmonellae were distributed globally.

New antibiotics are not appearing at the rate they were in the 50's to 80's and there have been no major new types of antibiotic in the last 20 years and few under development.

In about 1976 a bacteriologist (who as an army doctor used to tell of how in the war he had carried half the worlds supply of penicillin in a suitcase) delved into a pile of petri dishes and showed me a plate of Staphylococcus aureus with a clear ring around penicillin. He said 20 years ago they all looked like this, now there are hardly any and no one should expect penicillin to work for this bug. He next reached into the pile and showed me a plate with multiple resistances and said this is resistant to all the common antibiotics, we will plate it up against new second line drugs and one of them will probably work, but sometime soon we will run out of options.

Thirty years on I feel he was right. There is no easy answer to what to do. Use antibiotics wisely and employ more bacteriologists and listen to their advice may be a good start!

In the UK antibiotics are not available OTC for most uses, human or vet, but this does not isolate us from the problems. I don't think mammals are more likely than fish to be quicker to be colonised by resistant organisms, I suspect that the apparent speed is due to earler and more widespread use of antibiotics on mammals than herps and fish. The cats may be ill with resistant organisms selected by inappropriate antibiotic treatment but the bugs are probably not new mutants within the colony, maybe one ate a mouse colonised by resistant salmonellae picked up on a farm which used antibiotics. Inappropriate colony medication allows the resistant strain to thrive.

Declaration of interest- I'm a pathologist not a microbiologist, my microbiology knowledge come largely from working in a Lab where the employer was too mean to employ a medical microbiologist and it showed.

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