Antidepressants make shrimps see the light

Jul 13, 2010
Antidepressants make shrimps see the light

(PhysOrg.com) -- Rising levels of antidepressants in coastal waters could change sea-life behaviour and potentially damage the food-chain, according to a new study.

Research into the behaviour of shrimps exposed to the antidepressant fluoxetine, showed that their behaviour is dramatically affected. The shrimps are five times more likely to swim toward the light instead of away from it - making them more likely to be eaten by fish or birds, which could have devastating effects on the shrimp population.

“Crustaceans are crucial to the and if shrimps’ natural behaviour is being changed because of antidepressant levels in the sea this could seriously upset the natural balance of the ecosystem,” said Dr Alex Ford from the University of Portsmouth’s Institute of Marine Sciences.

“Much of what humans consume you can detect in the water in some concentration. We’re a nation of coffee drinkers and there is a huge amount of caffeine found in waste water, for example. It’s no surprise that what we get from the pharmacy will also be contaminating the country’s waterways.”

The research is published in the journal Aquatic Toxicology. The study found that the shrimps’ behaviour changes when they are exposed to the same levels of fluoxetine found in the that flows to rivers and estuaries as a result of the drugs humans excrete in sewage.

Dr Ford’s research was motivated by a species of parasite which can alter the behaviour of aquatic creatures through changing serotonin levels within the brains of the organisms. Serotonin is a neuro-hormone found in many animals, including humans, known to control types of behaviour, such as modulating mood and decreasing anxiety.

Drugs to combat depression in humans are often designed to target levels of serotonin which led to the question of whether they could also alter the behaviour of .

Dr Ford said: “Effluent is concentrated in river estuaries and coastal areas, which is where shrimps and other marine life live - this means that the shrimps are taking on the excreted drugs of whole towns.”

Prescriptions for antidepressants have risen rapidly in recent years, according to the Office for National Statistics. In 2002, there were 26.3 million antidepressant prescriptions handed out by doctors in England and Wales - yet the environmental effect of pharmaceuticals in sewage has been largely unexplored.

Dr Ford is hoping to carry out future research on a number of other prescribed drugs on the market known to affect serotonin.

Head of the School of Biological Sciences, Professor Matt Guille, said: “Dr Ford has conducted some beautifully simple research, which potentially shows huge ecological consequences. I hope it will lead the way for further study of prescribed drugs and other substances impacting on the country’s marine-life.”

Explore further: A European bear's point of view, finally on film

Provided by University of Portsmouth

4 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Drugs from sewage not dangerous

Jul 14, 2006

A Canadian study has suggested adverse effects are unlikely on aquatic life from drugs passed through human waste released from sewage treatment plants.

Sex differences in the brain's serotonin system

Feb 13, 2008

A new thesis from he Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet shows that the brain’s serotonin system differs between men and women. The scientists who conducted the study think that they have found one of the reasons ...

Taste test may identify best drugs for depression

Dec 06, 2006

New research has shown that it might be possible to use taste as an indicator as to whether someone is depressed, and as a way of determining which is the most suitable drug to treat their depression.

Recommended for you

Sharks contain more pollutants than polar bears

21 hours ago

The polar bear is known for having alarmingly high concentrations of PCB and other pollutants. But researchers have discovered that Greenland sharks store even more of these contaminants in their bodies.

Moth study suggests hidden climate change impacts

Apr 15, 2014

A 32-year study of subarctic forest moths in Finnish Lapland suggests that scientists may be underestimating the impacts of climate change on animals and plants because much of the harm is hidden from view.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

HappiEverAfter
not rated yet Jul 13, 2010
Ironic, anti-depressants cause suicidality in humans and now in shrimp too.

More news stories

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.