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Fish sold in Mumbai markets may make you resistant to antibiotics

Antibiotic residues from pharmaceutical and industrial effluents are discharged into the sea via sewage and waste water treatment facilities.

mumbai Updated: Apr 23, 2018 12:46 IST
Snehal Fernandes
Snehal Fernandes
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Mumbai news,fish
(Picture for representation)

While India is the second-largest fish producing country in the world, a new study revealed that consuming this protein-rich food could be making you resistant to antibiotics. A first-of-its-kind study by the Department of Biotechnology at the University of Mumbai and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai, found high levels of drug-resistant pathogens in five popular varieties of fish from local markets in the city.

“Antibiotics are being widely used as growth promoters, and to prevent and treat infection in fish farmed in aquaculture ponds, poultry farms, piggery farms, cattle-rearing farms and small ruminates [sheep and goats],” said Onkar Naik, PhD fellow, Department of Biotechnology. “Most of the antibiotics get flushed out and this accumulated waste flows into various water bodies before reaching the sea, while also contaminating the soil around,” Naik added.

Besides, antibiotic residues from pharmaceutical and industrial effluents are discharged into the sea via sewage and waste water treatment facilities.

Researchers said traces of these antibiotics may accumulate in fish owing to extensive usage and subsequent contamination of water bodies with these antimicrobial drugs.

When humans consume fish, antibiotic resistant microorganisms enter the human gut and probably transfer their resistant genes to the gut microflora. This spread of antibiotic resistant (AR) genes might lead to development of antibiotic resistance in human intestinal microorganisms.

This may lead to complication in treating many serious pathogenic diseases such as tuberculosis and urinary tract infections

“In addition to the direct use of antibiotics, there is a need to focus on their effects via indirect exposure due to anthropogenic (manmade) activities mainly through food consumption,” said professor Archana Rath, Principal Investigator, and Head of the Department of Biotechnology.

“A method of surveillance and detection of antibiotics/ antibiotic residues and antibiotic resistant microorganisms in every food is needed, which should be monitored by designated laboratories.”

“With steady globalisation of Mumbai, these AR pathogens are very likely to spread to other countries through the fledgling fish export industry,” stated the study that was funded by the Department of Atomic Energy-Board of Research in Nuclear Sciences (DAE-BRNS), BARC.

With the Indian government embarking on the ‘Blue Revolution’ scheme in 2016 that aims at increasing fish production and productivity to up to eight percent annual growth rate and to produce 15 million tonnes of fish by 2020 through methods of both capture and culture.

“The issue with aquaculture in India is that we do not have a thorough understanding about the current practices involved in raising fish for human consumption,” said Dr Sumanth Gandra, resident scholar at Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy’s (CDDEP) New Delhi office.

Gandra whose primary research interest is surveillance of antimicrobial resistance added, “Antibiotics are probably used, but we do not have details of what kinds of antibiotics are used, when they are used, in what quantity, how they are used and what do they do with the water after each batch of fish etc. To come up with interventions we first need to know what is happening. I would urge the government to undertake research into existing aquaculture practices.”

First Published: Apr 23, 2018 10:46 IST