Fish Antibiotics: Why Many Americans Take Them Over Doctor Checkups

Some Americans look at medications for pet fish as the first option to treat their conditions before doctors, a problem experts said may contribute to antimicrobial resistance in the country. Antibiotic resistance could make standard treatments ineffective and allow infections to spread faster among people.

A new study shows that people prefer fish antibiotics because they are cheaper, readily available and are sold without prescription. Researchers at the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy analyzed thousands of reviews for the antibiotics online, The Guardian reported

“While human consumption of fish antibiotics is likely low, any consumption by humans of antibiotics intended for animals is alarming,” Brandon Bookstaver, study co-author and director of residency and training at the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, said. 

Bookstaver and his colleagues looked at nine antibiotics for sale at 24 different websites, including those prescribed to humans, such as penicillin and amoxicillin. They reviewed 2,228 comments, with only 55 comments describing human use of fish antibiotics. 

Researchers said there are some factors that encourage people to use fish antibiotics. First is that some of the medications for pet fish appeared with exact imprints, colors and shapes of antibiotics designed for humans.

In addition, online sellers also promote the use of veterinary medicine. One seller responded to an online question explaining that their fish antibiotics were suitable for human use. 

“Self-medication and the availability of antibiotics without healthcare oversight might contribute to increasing antimicrobial resistance and delayed appropriate treatment,” Bookstaver said. “We were particularly concerned that the high volume of positive feedback on the comments about human use might encourage others to attempt to use these drugs.” 

Why People Take Fish Antibiotics

Farzon Nahvi, an emergency room doctor in New York City, recalled having a patient who overdosed on fish antibiotics. She said some Americans use veterinary medicine for their health problems because of the lack of access to affordable health care. 

“This simply seems to be a symptom of the much larger issue of a broken healthcare system, where people who are excluded from the system are looking for solutions outside of it, sometimes to dangerous effect,” Nahvi, a member of Physicians for a National Health Program, said. 

To date, there are 27 million Americans without access to health care or living without health insurance.

gold fish Research shows that Americans are now taking antibiotics designed for pet fish to treat their health problems due to lack of access to affordable health services in the U.S. Pixabay