0215 GMT July 20, 2019
Until now, health researchers assumed antibiotic resistance was primarily the result of overprescription and overuse. But a new study suggested climate change is also to blame, UPI reported.
Derek MacFadden, an infectious disease specialist and research fellow at Boston Children's Hospital, said, "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.
"We also found a signal that the associations between antibiotic resistance and temperature could be increasing over time."
MacFadden and his colleagues analyzed instances of antibiotic resistance to three common bacterial strains, E. coli, K. pneumoniae and S. aureus, as reported by hospitals across the country.
When researchers compared the data with weather patterns, their analysis — detailed in the journal Nature Climate Change — revealed a correlation between local temperature increases, population densities and antibiotic resistance.
Scientists acknowledged that additional research will be necessary to confirm a cause-and-effect relationship.
Previous studies have predicted an increase in antibiotic resistance in the coming decades. The latest findings suggested those predictions could prove overly conservative.
Mauricio Santillana, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, said, "Population growth and increases in temperature and antibiotic resistance are three phenomena that we know are currently happening on our planet.
"But until now, hypotheses about how these phenomena relate to each other have been sparse."
Authors of the new study believe global warming is accelerating the transmission of antibiotic-resistant organisms from one host to another, providing more opportunities for organisms to select for resistance as they evolve and reproduce.
John Brownstein, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School (HMS), said, "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.”