A review of the toxicity in fish exposed to antibiotics

Changwon Yang, Gwonhwa Song, Whasun Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


Antibiotics are widely used in the treatment of human and veterinary diseases and are being used worldwide in the agriculture industry to promote livestock growth. However, a variety of antibiotics that are found in aquatic environments are toxic to aquatic organisms. Antibiotics are not completely removed by wastewater treatment plants and are therefore released into aquatic environments, which raises concern about the destruction of the ecosystem owing to their non-target effects. Since antibiotics are designed to be persistent and work steadily in the body, their chronic toxicity effects have been studied in aquatic microorganisms. However, research on the toxicity of antibiotics in fish at the top of the aquatic food chain is relatively poor. This paper summarizes the current understanding of the reported toxicity studies with antibiotics in fish, including zebrafish, to date. Four antibiotic types; quinolones, sulfonamides, tetracyclines, and macrolides, which are thought to be genetically toxic to fish have been reported to bioaccumulate in fish tissues, as well as in aquatic environments such as rivers and surface water. The adverse effects of these antibiotics are known to cause damage to developmental, cardiovascular, and metabolic systems, as well as in altering anti-oxidant and immune responses, in fish. Therefore, there are serious concerns about the toxicity of antibiotics in fish and further research and strategies are needed to prevent them in different regions of the world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108840
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part - C: Toxicology and Pharmacology
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant of the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) [grant number 2018R1C1B6009048 ].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.


  • Antibiotics
  • Ecosystems
  • Fish
  • Toxicity
  • Wastewater


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