Macrolides induce severe cardiotoxicity and developmental toxicity in zebrafish embryos

Macrolide antibiotics (MALs) are widely used for both human and animal health. Most MALs and their metabolites transfer into aquatic organisms and environment resulting in violent consequences. Previous studies show that MALs cause cardiotoxicity in humans and mammals. However, the potential risk of these chemicals in aquatic organisms remains unclear. In this study, the authors used zebrafish embryos as a model to evaluate the toxicity of MALs. Zebrafish embryos were exposed to four typical MALs including azithromycin (AZM), clarithromycin (CLR), tilmicosin (TMS) and tylosin (TYL) to study their cardiotoxicity. The heart rate of zebrafish embryos showed similar biphasic distribution in the presence of four MALs at 2?days post-fertilization (dpf). The heart rate increased significantly at low levels of MALs while decreased obviously at high levels. Subsequently, TMS was chose to study its acute toxicity and developmental toxicity, which caused pericardial oedema and spinal curvature in zebrafish embryos at 4?dpf. Furthermore, the authors found that TMS triggered oxidative stress, with decreased SOD activities and increased MDA contents. Lastly, apoptosis was observed in zebrafish embryos under TMS treatment, with up-regulation of apoptosis associated genes such as p53, bcl 2, bax, caspase 3 and caspase 9, confirmed by increased protein expression based on Western blot analysis. Taken together, these data indicate that MALs can cause serious toxicity in the development of zebrafish. Great caution should be taken due to the huge consumption of MALs for food animal production and treatments with TMS for infections in aquaculture.

Authors: Yan Z, Huang X, Xie Y, Song M, Zhu K, Ding S. ; Full Source: Science of the Total Environment. 2019 Feb 1; 649:1414-1421. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.07.432. Epub 2018 Aug 21.