Infectious Diseases Becoming More Lethal Due To Air Pollution: Study

Air pollution is contributing to an increase in antibiotic resistance, which poses a serious threat to human health.

Infectious Diseases Becoming More Lethal Due To Air Pollution: Study

Curbing air pollution could help reduce antibiotic resistance.

Air pollution puts you at risk for a variety of ailments, including lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and a variety of respiratory problems. However, a new study has shown that air pollution is the primary cause of rising antibiotic resistance worldwide.

The global study published Monday in The Lancet Planetary Health suggests that antibiotic resistance among pathogenic bacterial diseases may be linked to increases in air pollution, putting people all around the globe at risk of exposure to these infections. While reducing air pollution may be a crucial strategy to prevent such stresses from emerging, this will require global governments to work together.

"Antibiotic resistance is a severe global issue, causing approximately 1.27 million premature deaths in 2019 worldwide, substantially exceeding the estimated 0.70 million deaths in 2016," the study said.

Although the misuse and overuse of antibiotics are the main drivers of antibiotic resistance, the rapid spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes across global regions and sectors (e.g., human beings, animals, and environments) is also important for the transmission and prevalence of antibiotic resistance.

"We estimate that a 10% increase in annual PM2.5 could lead to a 1.1% increase in antibiotic resistance and 43 654 premature deaths attributable to antibiotic resistance worldwide (figure 3). If no actions are taken, this negative effect on health caused by increasing air pollution and antibiotic resistance is expected to escalate, especially with the global population approaching 9.7 billion by 2050," warn the researchers in the study.

"Antibiotic resistance and air pollution are each in their own right among the greatest threats to global health," Hong Chen, a researcher at Zhejiang University in China and the lead author of the new study, said in a statement.

"Until now, we didn't have a clear picture of the possible links between the two, but this work suggests the benefits of controlling air pollution could be twofold: not only will it reduce the harmful effects of poor air quality, it could also play a major role in combating the rise and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria."