Best reason to quarantine? Your health

By on Jan 17, 2013

Need a better reason to quarantine? How about your own health. We know quarantine systems are an essential component to bringing new fish into your system to help prevent the spread of disease to your other fish, but recent research from Oregon State University is showing that tropical fish are becoming immune to antibiotics and this could mean fish diseases could potentially transfer to humans. 

Although the risk for transmission is low unless you have a compromised immune system or work around fish a lot, this really means the threat of disease carrying fish entering the trade is much higher and that can lead to higher mortality rates unless better quarantine systems are put in place. Since the ornamental aquatics industry generates nearly $900 million in the US alone, this is significant news.

“We expected to find some antibiotic resistance, but it was surprising to find such high levels, including resistance in some cases where the antibiotic is rarely used,” said Tim Miller-Morgan, a veterinary aquatics specialist with Oregon State University. “We appear to already have set ourselves up for some pretty serious problems within the industry.”

The study tested 32 freshwater fish of various species with nine different antibiotics. Startling enough, some resistance was found to every antibiotic with the highest level of resistance at 77% for the common antibiotic tetracycline. The fish were transported from Colombia, Singapore and Florida and tested in Portland.

So what kind of bacterial infections were found? Some included Aeromonas, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus and others, several of which can infect both fish and humans.

“The range of resistance is often quite disturbing,” the scientists wrote in their report. “It is not uncommon to see resistance to a wide range of antibiotic classes, including beta-lactams, macrolides, tetracyclines, sulphonamides, quinolones, cephalosporins and chloramphenicol.”

Some common sense things to consider when purchasing or working around fish, try to buy healthy fish from reputable dealers; use gloves when working around your aquarium; avoid cleaning tanks with open cuts or sores on your hands; immediately remove sick fish from tanks; consider quarantining all new fish in a separate tank for 30 days; wash hands after working with fish; and never use antibiotics in a fish tank unless actually treating a known fish disease caused by bacteria.

As the report noted, the industry can help reduce the risk by using better screening and handling of fish and to use quarantines over antibiotics to reduce fish disease.

[via Red Orbit]

 

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