The AAPS Journal

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 513–524 | Cite as

Does the Recent Growth of Aquaculture Create Antibiotic Resistance Threats Different from those Associated with Land Animal Production in Agriculture?

  • Hansa Y. Done
  • Arjun K. Venkatesan
  • Rolf U. HaldenEmail author
Review Article Theme: Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Theme: Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment


Important antibiotics in human medicine have been used for many decades in animal agriculture for growth promotion and disease treatment. Several publications have linked antibiotic resistance development and spread with animal production. Aquaculture, the newest and fastest growing food production sector, may promote similar or new resistance mechanisms. This review of 650+ papers from diverse sources examines parallels and differences between land-based agriculture of swine, beef, and poultry and aquaculture. Among three key findings was, first, that of 51 antibiotics commonly used in aquaculture and agriculture, 39 (or 76%) are also of importance in human medicine; furthermore, six classes of antibiotics commonly used in both agriculture and aquaculture are also included on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of critically important/highly important/important antimicrobials. Second, various zoonotic pathogens isolated from meat and seafood were observed to feature resistance to multiple antibiotics on the WHO list, irrespective of their origin in either agriculture or aquaculture. Third, the data show that resistant bacteria isolated from both aquaculture and agriculture share the same resistance mechanisms, indicating that aquaculture is contributing to the same resistance issues established by terrestrial agriculture. More transparency in data collection and reporting is needed so the risks and benefits of antibiotic usage can be adequately assessed.


agriculture antibiotic resistance aquaculture resistance mechanisms 



The authors would like to thank Patty Lovera of the Food and Water Watch for graciously letting us use the density maps for US agriculture of cattle, swine, and poultry. We would also like to thank Diane Windham, Kevin Amos, and Barbara Seekins of NOAA for providing resources and email correspondences regarding US aquaculture antibiotic usage and census data. Thanks to Mae Wu of the NRDC, Margaret Mellon (Science Policy Consultant), David Love (Johns Hopkins University), Keeve Nachman (Johns Hopkins University), and Steve Roach (Food Animals Concerns Trust) for their communications and help with antibiotics usage data and references. This study was supported in part by the Piper Charitable Trust and by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences grants R01ES015445, R01ES020889 and their respective supplements. The content of this work is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIEHS or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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Copyright information

© American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hansa Y. Done
    • 1
    • 2
  • Arjun K. Venkatesan
    • 1
  • Rolf U. Halden
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Center for Environmental Security, The Biodesign InstituteArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Biological Design Graduate Program, School of Biological and Health Systems EngineeringArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Health, Bloomberg School of Public HealthJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

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