Antibiotic Resistance and Pathogenic Signature in Marine and Freshwater Aquaculture Systems

The project aims to improve the quality assessment of aquaculture practices and products by exploring the fate of antibiotics (AB) and microbial contaminants across the water cycle.

Contamination levels will be assessed from sources (effluents, river outflows) to end points (aquaculture plants) and final food products (fish fillets), along with the antibiotic resistome and pathogenic signature in farm surrounding aquatic environments in open (mariculture) and recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), which mainly consist of indoor tanks in which fish is grown using low or no ABs or chemicals. For mariculture only, the assessment of the same contaminants will be also performed in benthic biota beneath fish cages; moreover, in order to take into account seasonal variations, we will perform analyses at contrasting seasons (e.g., summer, generally characterized by a higher anthropogenic pressure, and winter, with a lower anthropogenic pressure).

Novel early-warning tools for the rapid detection of antibiotic residues (flow cytometry-based), antibiotic-resistance genes (ARGs) (high-throughput sequencing-based), and microbial pathogens (sensor-based) in environmental and biological samples will be optimized.

ARENA will contribute to elucidate the significance of antibiotic-related issues, finally providing a cross-disciplinary approach for risk assessment and future operative efforts to mitigate the magnification of antibiotic resistance and pathogenicity in aquaculture settings.

Project website


Achievements so far

The aim of the ARENA project is to provide a comprehensive overview of the AB resistome, pathogenic signature and AB contamination in both open and closed fish farms. This will include the identification of potential sources and pathways of contamination, facilitated by novel early warning tools. During the initial phase of the ARENA project, the team launched the project website, conducted the first mariculture sampling campaign and obtained preliminary results indicating widespread antibiotic contamination and resistance at the study site. ARENA aims to provide valuable knowledge and tools for future initiatives aimed at reducing the spread and amplification of antibiotic resistant bacteria and other pathogens in aquaculture.

If you're interested in scientific publications associated with ARENA, click here.



Project Coordinator:
Dr. Gian Marco Luna,
National Research Counci (CNR), Italy


Communication & Dissemination Contact:
Dr Elisa Baldrighi


Partner Institutions:
Institute for Water Research (ICRA) - Spain

University of Applied Sciences Aachen - Germany

University of Liège - Belgium

KU Leuven - Belgium