Histopathological effects of the antibiotic erythromycin on the freshwater fish species Oncorhynchus mykiss.


Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental (CIIMAR/CIMAR), Terminal de Cruzeiros do Porto de Leixões, Avenida General Norton de Matos S/N, 4450-208 Matosinhos, Portugal; Faculdade de Ciências da Saúde da Universidade Fernando Pessoa (FCS-UFP), Rua Carlos da Maia, 296, 4200-150, Porto, Portugal. Electronic address: [Email]


Pharmaceuticals are found in the aquatic compartment due to their continuous release in wastewater effluents or direct dispersal in aquaculture practices raising serious threats to human and environmental health. Erythromycin (ERY) is a macrolide antibiotic widely prescribed in human and veterinary medicine to threat a number of bacterial infections, being consequently found in the aquatic environment. The present work intends to evaluate the sub-lethal effects of ERY on juveniles of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in terms of tissue damage using histochemical staining procedures. Individuals were exposed for 96 h (acute exposure: 0.001-10 mg/L) and 28 days (chronic exposure: 0.05-0.8 μg/L) to environmentally realistic concentrations of ERY. Qualitative and quantitative approaches were used to assess O. mykiss gills and liver tissue alterations after exposure to ERY. For both exposures the most common gill changes recorded were progressive (e.g. hypertrophy of mucous cells and hyperplasia of the epithelial cells). However, circulatory (e.g. aneurysms and oedemas) and regressive (e.g. epithelial lifting of lamellae and lamellar fusion) changes were also observed in the acute assay. Gill morphometric analysis revealed to be a good indicator of subtle alterations in gill architecture in agreement with the qualitative scoring system. In liver, regressive (e.g. cytoplasmic vacuolization, pyknotic nucleus and hepatocellular degeneration) and circulatory disturbances (e.g. hemorrhage and increase of sinusoidal space) were the most frequently observed alterations, but only for the acute assay. Furthermore, all histological changes observed contributed to a significant increase in the pathological index for both organs. The current data demonstrate the existence of a direct dose-effect relationship between the exposure to this specific macrolide antibiotic and the histological disorders recorded in different tissues of the exposed fish. The histopathological findings observed in this study may have been the result of several physio-metabolic dysfunctions. However, the observed tissue lesions were of minimal or moderate pathological importance, non-specific and reversible. Further investigation into the cellular mechanism of action of ERY is needed.


Acute and chronic exposures,Antibiotics,Fish,Tissue damages,