Researching Antimicrobial Resistance in Aquaculture
Global aquaculture production is expected to more than double by 2030 (FAO, 2020). This has resulted in an increase in the use of antibiotics, which is causing an increase in antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Research is needed to help farmers find ways to reduce reliance on antibiotics. One project working towards finding solutions is USAID-funded Transformational Strategies for Farm Output Risk Mitigation (TRANSFORM). This project is conducting on-farm research on shrimp and covers small- to large-scale farms in India and Vietnam.
Global aquaculture production totaled 114.2 million metric tons in 2018, with Asia accounting for 90 percent of production. China, India, Thailand, Vietnam and Bangladesh produce the most (FAO, 2020). This increase in production has corresponded to a rise in aquaculture diseases caused by bacteria, which in turn has fueled an increase in antibiotic use in the industry (Schar et al., 2020).
In addition to treating infections, farmers also use antibiotics in a preventative way to increase production and reduce mortality. It is estimated that the total worldwide terrestrial, human and aquatic food animal antimicrobial use will reach more than 236,000 tons by 2030 Aquaculture will account for 5.7 percent of this. The most-used antibiotics in aquaculture are quinolones followed by tetracyclines, amphenicols and sulfonamides. Global studies have shown that China, India and Vietnam have the largest share of aquaculture antimicrobial consumption, mostly in shrimp aquaculture but also in fish species (Schar et al., 2020).
The World Health Organization (WHO) lists 39 antimicrobials used in aquaculture as also being critically or highly important for human medicine. The use of antimicrobials important for human medicine in aquaculture increases the risk that bacteria will develop AMR. In recent years, public health agencies have taken action to reduce this threat since AMR is now recognized as a major challenge to global health security.
The scale and scope of these challenges means that solutions must be holistic and work across sectors at multiple scales. The industry needs to develop sustainable solutions across animal health, agriculture, aquaculture, nutrition, trade, markets and farm management. These efforts must also have at their heart systematic research and development to assist farmers and the industry in creating new technologies but also to inform policy. The private sector plays a central role in shaping aquaculture production and is therefore a key player in generating solutions to these global challenges.
One major global program supporting the animal agriculture and aquaculture industries through research is the USAID-funded TRANSFORM project. TRANSFORM is built on a scalable, market-driven model to address AMR, zoonoses and transboundary animal disease in Kenya, India, Indonesia and Vietnam. The TRANSFORM consortium is led by Cargill and includes Ausvet, the International Poultry Council and Heifer International, bringing diverse, multistakeholder business acumen, resources, commercial incentives and local networks that will help contribute to a competitive market.
For TRANSFORM, the first focus for on-farm aquaculture research is with shrimp. The work covers small- to large-scale farms in India and Vietnam. After China, these countries are the leading consumers of antimicrobials in aquaculture. On-farm training will be provided on biosafety and farm management at the same time as testing in-feed interventions.
Research on shrimp in India and Vietnam will be on the impact of a category of in-feed interventions called Saccharomyces cerevisiae fermentation products. These are known to strengthen immune function resulting in better health and higher survivability.
Cross-sector research projects with universities, research institutes and commercial farms are designed to establish efficacy in the different business models across these four countries. Research findings will be published in peer-reviewed journals, trade journals and other channels.
The long-term outcomes of the on-farm shrimp health research will be systemically linked to other parts of TRANSFORM. This includes on-farm training for small and larger farms and antimicrobial use stewardship activities. The all-sector data system will measure behavior change and generate the data needed for farmers and other stakeholders to make critical animal health decisions.
Overall, the aquaculture research will connect to other activities of TRANSFORM and build a more resilient market to improve access to safe and sustainable animal-sourced protein.
For more information on TRANSFORM, visit www.cargill.com/sustainability/transform.
- The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020. Sustainability in action.
- Global trends in antimicrobial use in aquaculture.