Climate change is wreaking havoc across the globe – melting ice caps, causing dangerous weather and decimating animal populations.
New research has found that it could also be increasing antibiotic resistance in bacteria.
A team of epidemiologists from Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital and the University of Toronto have found that higher local temperatures and population densities correspond with a higher degree of antibiotic resistance in common bacterial strains.
Previously, increase in resistance to common bacteria was thought to come from over-prescribing antibiotics.
A study found that higher local temperatures and population densities correlate with a higher degree of antibiotic resistance in common bacterial strains
In 2016 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that approximately 30 percent of prescribed antibiotics are unnecessary.
‘The effects of climate are increasingly being recognized in a variety of infectious diseases, but so far as we know this is the first time it has been implicated in the distribution of antibiotic resistance over geographies,’ said lead study author and infectious disease specialist and research fellow at Boston Children’s Derek MacFadden.
‘We also found a signal that the associations between antibiotic resistance and temperature could be increasing over time,’ he said.
The researchers found that an increase of 18degrees Fahrenheit is associated with increases of antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli (4.2 percent), K. pneumoniae (2.2 percent), and S. aureus (3.6 percent).
The study pulled together a database of U.S. antibiotic resistance in E. coli, K. pneumoniae and S. aureus, pulling from hospital, laboratory and disease surveillance data documented between 2013 and 2015.
It comprised more than 1.6 million bacterial specimens from 602 unique records across 223 facilities and 41 states.
Previously, increase in resistance to common bacteria was thought to come from over-prescribing antibiotics. In 2016 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that approximately 30 percent of prescribed antibiotics are unnecessary
WHAT IS ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE?
Antibiotics have been doled out unnecessarily by GPs and hospital staff for decades, fueling once harmless bacteria to become superbugs.
The World Health Organization has previously warned if nothing is done the world was headed for a ‘post-antibiotic’ era.
It claimed common infections, such as chlamydia, will become killers without immediate answers to the growing crisis.
Bacteria can become drug resistant when people take incorrect doses of antibiotics, or they are given out unnecessarily.
Chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies claimed in 2016 that the threat of antibiotic resistance is as severe as terrorism.
Figures estimate that superbugs will kill ten million people each year by 2050, with patients succumbing to once harmless bugs.
Around 700,000 people already die yearly due to drug-resistant infections including tuberculosis (TB), HIV and malaria across the world.
Concerns have repeatedly been raised that medicine will be taken back to the ‘dark ages’ if antibiotics are rendered ineffective in the coming years.
In addition to existing drugs becoming less effective, there have only been one or two new antibiotics developed in the last 30 years.
In September, the World Health Organisation warned antibiotics are ‘running out’ as a report found a ‘serious lack’ of new drugs in the development pipeline.
Without antibiotics, caesarean sections, cancer treatments and hip replacements would also become incredibly ‘risky’, it was said at the time.
‘Estimates outside of our study have already told us that there will already be a drastic and deadly rise in antibiotic resistance in coming years,’ said co-senior author John Brownstein, chief innovation officer and director of the Computational Epidemiology Group at Boston Children’s.
‘But with our findings that climate change could be compounding and accelerating an increase in antibiotic resistance, the future prospects could be significantly worse than previously thought.’
The team also found that in addition to rising temperatures, antibiotic resistance along with population density.
The researchers found that an increase of 50 degrees Fahrenheit is associated with increases of antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli (4.2 percent), K. pneumoniae (2.2 percent), and S. aureus (3.6 percent). File photo of E coli
They found that an increase of 10,000 people per square mile was associated with three and six percent respective increases in antibiotic resistance in Gram-negative E. coli and K. pneumoniae.
‘Population growth and increases in temperature and antibiotic resistance are three phenomena that we know are currently happening on our planet,’ senior author Mauricio Santillana said.
‘But until now, hypotheses about how these phenomena relate to each other have been sparse.’
‘The bottom line is that our findings highlight a dire need to invest more research efforts into improving our understanding of the interconnectedness of infectious disease, medicine, and our changing environment,’ said Brownstein.
WHAT WILL CLIMATE CHANGE DO TO OUR OCEANS?
Climate change will contribute to ocean acidification, according to the National Ocean Service.
This change can be attributed to higher levels of greenhouse gases emerging as a result of human activities.
Climate change affects the ocean in a variety of ways.
A new study has found that methane flares in a region off the coast of Norway are not caused by climate change as was previously assumed. However scientists are warning that the man-made effects of climate change are still persisting (file photo)
It can cause sea levels to rise and coral in the sea to be smothered.
Climate change can also affect the ocean’s currents and cause ‘murky’ water conditions with reduced amounts of light, according to the National Ocean Service.
The organization has provided the following tips for lowering the amount of damage done to the oceans:
- Eat sustainable seafood.
- Refrain from dumping household chemicals into storm drains.
- Drive as little as possible.
- Print less.
- Help with beach cleanups.