As the human population increases there is an increasing reliance on aquaculture to supply a safe, reliable, and economic supply of food. Although food production is essential for a healthy population, an increasing threat to global human health is antimicrobial resistance. Extensive antibiotic resistant strains are now being detected; the spread of these strains could greatly reduce medical treatment options available and increase deaths from previously curable infections. Antibiotic resistance is widespread due in part to clinical overuse and misuse; however, the natural processes of horizontal gene transfer and mutation events that allow genetic exchange within microbial populations have been ongoing since ancient times. By their nature, aquaculture systems contain high numbers of diverse bacteria, which exist in combination with the current and past use of antibiotics, probiotics, prebiotics, and other treatment regimens—singularly or in combination. These systems have been designated as “genetic hotspots” for gene transfer. As our reliance on aquaculture grows, it is essential that we identify the sources and sinks of antimicrobial resistance, and monitor and analyse the transfer of antimicrobial resistance between the microbial community, the environment, and the farmed product, in order to better understand the implications to human and environmental health.
- antimicrobial resistance
- horizontal gene transfer