Popular antidepressant found in the environment alters breeding habits in fish
OTTAWA A study by a team of researchers led by Professors Vance Trudeau and Tom Moon from the University of Ottawa’s Department of Biology has shown that the infiltration of the common antidepressant Prozac into waterways can inhibit sexual activity in fish.
To study the ecological impact of Prozac, a now easily detected drug in Canada’s sewage effluents, graduate students Jan Mennigen and Wudu Lado added the medication directly to water in the lab to simulate its effect on male goldfish in the environment.
In nature, female goldfish release chemicals called pheromones to indicate to males that they are ready to mate. Normal male fish, which detect the chemicals just as humans smell odours, are then stimulated to breed with the females and release their sperm to fertilize the eggs. However, the uOttawa researchers found that if the male fish are exposed to Prozac, they do not respond to the pheromone and do not release their sperm.
“The results of the study surprised us all, because even when the potent female sex pheromone was in the water, male goldfish exposed to Prozac did not release sperm and therefore could not breed,” explains Prof. Trudeau.
In an earlier study, the University of Ottawa researchers also found that high doses of fluoxetine, the active chemical in Prozac, not only destabilized sex hormone levels in female goldfish, but also slashed estrogen levels in the blood.
“This study has important implications for the health of our environment. As these effects of Prozac are found in both male and female fish, we must now consider Prozac-like pharmaceutical products as environmental pollutants that cause sexual dysfunction in fish,” concludes Vance Trudeau.
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