Study: Tropical Fish Immune To Antibiotics And Pass Diseases To Humans

Study: Tropical Fish Immune To Antibiotics And Pass Diseases To Humans


If asked to name the most dangerous household pet, many might assume certain dog breeds such as pit bulls or pet reptiles like pythons and boa constrictors. But tropical fish? Perfectly harmless, right? Not according to new research from Oregon State University.

The university published a study finding a “disturbing” amount of tropical fish that are not only resistant to antibiotics but also carry bacterial infections that spread to humans. The study, published in the Journal of Fish Diseases, found 32 species of freshwater fish were resistant to nine different drugs.

The fish—originating from Colombia, Singapore and Florida—held some form of resistance to every antibiotic and 77 percent were resistant to tetracycline—the most common antibiotic prescribed to humans. The fish carried bacterial infections including Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus.

“We expected to find some antibiotic resistance, but it was surprising to find such high levels,” said Tim Miller-Morgan, a veterinary aquatics specialist with Oregon State University.

The study claims it is rare for diseases to pass from fish to humans, but those with poor immune systems and people who own and work with tropical fish are particularly vulnerable. Miller-Morgan advises fish owners to only purchase healthy fish and to avoid cleaning tanks with open cuts or sores on the skin. Likewise, sick fish should be immediately removed from the tank and new fish should be quarantined for 30 days. Fish owners should always wash their hands after working with fish and never use antibiotics in a fish tank unless advised to do so by a vet.

Samantha Lile


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