Antimicrobial resistance in bacteria isolated from aquaculture sources in Australia

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To carry out a preliminary assessment of the occurrence of resistance to antimicrobials in bacteria that has been isolated from a variety of aquaculture species and environments in Australia.

Method and Results

A total of 100 Gram-negative (Vibrio spp. and Aeromonas spp. predominantly) and four Gram-positive bacteria isolated from farmed fish, crustaceans and water from crab larval rearing tanks were obtained from diagnostic laboratories from different parts of Australia. All the isolates were tested for sensitivity to 19 antibiotics and Minimal Inhibitory Concentrations were determined by the agar dilution method. Plasmid DNA was isolated by the alkali lysis method. Resistance to ampicillin, amoxycillin, cephalexin and erythromycin was widespread; resistance to oxytetracycline, tetracycline, nalidixic acid and sulfonamides was common but resistance to chloramphenicol, florfenicol, ceftiofur, cephalothin, cefoperazone, oxolinic acid, gentamicin, kanamycin and trimethoprim was less common. All strains were susceptible to ciprofloxacin. Multiple resistance was also observed and 74·4% of resistant isolates had between one and ten plasmids with sizes ranging 2–51 kbp.


No antibiotics are registered for use in aquaculture in Australia but these results suggest that there has been significant off-label use.

Significance and impact of study

Transfer of antibiotic resistant bacteria to humans via the food chain is a significant health concern. In comparison with studies on terrestrial food producing animals, there are fewer studies on antibiotic resistance in bacteria from aquaculture enterprises and this study provides further support to the view that there is the risk of transfer of resistant bacteria to humans from consumption of aquaculture products. From the Australian perspective, although there are no products registered for use in aquaculture, antimicrobial resistance is present in isolates from aquaculture and aquaculture environments.

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