BackgroundTilapia is a primary aquaculture fish in Thailand, but little is known about the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Aeromonas hydrophila, Salmonella spp., and Vibrio cholerae colonizing healthy tilapia intended for human consumption and the co-occurrence of these AMR bacteria in the cultivation water.MethodsThis study determined the phenotype and genotype of AMR, extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL) production, and virulence factors of A. hydrophila, Salmonella spp., and V. cholerae isolated from hybrid red tilapia and cultivation water in Thailand. Standard culture methods such as USFDA's BAM or ISO procedures were used for the original isolation, with all isolates confirmed by biochemical tests, serotyping, and species-specific gene detection based on PCR.ResultsA total of 278 isolates consisting of 15 A. hydrophila, 188 Salmonella spp., and 75 V. cholerae isolates were retrieved from a previous study. All isolates of A. hydrophila and Salmonella isolates were resistance to at least one antimicrobial, with 26.7% and 72.3% of the isolates being multidrug resistant (MDR), respectively. All A. hydrophila isolates were resistant to ampicillin (100%), followed by oxytetracycline (26.7%), tetracycline (26.7%), trimethoprim (26.7%), and oxolinic acid (20.0%). The predominant resistance genes in A. hydrophila were mcr-3 (20.0%), followed by 13.3% of isolates having floR, qnrS, sul1, sul2, and dfrA1. Salmonella isolates also exhibited a high prevalence of resistance to ampicillin (79.3%), oxolinic acid (75.5%), oxytetracycline (71.8%), chloramphenicol (62.8%), and florfenicol (55.3%). The most common resistance genes in these Salmonella isolates were qnrS (65.4%), tetA (64.9%), bla TEM (63.8%), and floR (55.9%). All V. cholerae isolates were susceptible to all antimicrobials tested, while the most common resistance gene was sul1 (12.0%). One isolate of A. hydrophila was positive for int1, while all isolates of Salmonella and V. cholerae isolates were negative for integrons and int SXT. None of the bacterial isolates in this study were producing ESBL. The occurrence of mcr-3 (20.0%) in these isolates from tilapia aquaculture may signify a serious occupational and consumer health risk given that colistin is a last resort antimicrobial for treatment of Gram-negative bacteria infections.ConclusionsFindings from this study on AMR bacteria in hybrid red tilapia suggest that aquaculture as practiced in Thailand can select for ubiquitous AMR pathogens, mobile genetic elements, and an emerging reservoir of mcr and colistin-resistant bacteria. Resistant and pathogenic bacteria, such as resistance to ampicillin and tetracycline, or MDR Salmonella circulating in aquaculture, together highlight the public health concerns and foodborne risks of zoonotic pathogens in humans from cultured freshwater fish.