Prevalence and transmission risk of colistin and multidrug resistance in long-distance coastal aquaculture

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An, Taicheng
Cai, Yiwei
Li, Guiying
Li, Shaoting
Wong, Po Keung
Guo, Jianhua
Zhao, Huijun
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Due to the wide use of antibiotics, intensive aquaculture farms have been recognized as a significant reservoir of antibiotic resistomes. Although the prevalence of colistin resistance genes and multidrug-resistant bacteria (MDRB) has been documented, empirical evidence for the transmission of colistin and multidrug resistance between bacterial communities in aquaculture farms through horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is lacking. Here, we report the prevalence and transmission risk of colistin and multidrug resistance in 27 aquaculture water samples from 9 aquaculture zones from over 5000 km of subtropical coastlines in southern China. The colistin resistance gene mcr-1, mobile genetic element (MGE) intl1 and 13 typical antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) were prevalent in all the aquaculture water samples. Most types of antibiotic (especially colistin) resistance are transmissible in bacterial communities based on evidence from laboratory conjugation and transformation experiments. Diverse MDRB were detected in most of the aquaculture water samples, and a strain with high-level colistin resistance, named Ralstonia pickettii MCR, was isolated. The risk of horizontal transfer of the colistin resistance of R. pickettii MCR through conjugation and transformation was low, but the colistin resistance could be steadily transmitted to offspring through vertical transfer. The findings have important implications for the future regulation of antibiotic use in aquaculture farms globally to address the growing threat posed by antibiotic resistance to human health.

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ISME Communications
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© The Author(s) 2023. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
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Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
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An, T; Cai, Y; Li, G; Li, S; Wong, PK; Guo, J; Zhao, H, Prevalence and transmission risk of colistin and multidrug resistance in long-distance coastal aquaculture, ISME Communications, 2023, 3, pp. 115