Air pollution and antimicrobial resistance

Bacteria mutate in response to the use of antibiotics, they become resistant, continue to grow and multiply, leading to infections such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, sepsis, gonorrhea, salmonellosis, loss of effectiveness of antibiotics. Due to this it becomes difficult to treat. Antibiotics, which increase length of hospital stay, increase mortality and increase health care costs. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a result of the misuse of antibiotics, will become the leading cause of death in the world in 2050 and fighting it to reduce its impact and limit its spread is a WHO priority.

A study published in The Lancet estimated that AMR was linked to 5 million deaths worldwide in 2019 (1.27 million caused directly by multidrug-resistant bacteria). Experts consider pollution as one of the main factors fueling the growth of AMR, and predict that the number of deaths will continue to increase. According to WHO, antimicrobials are one of the 10 main threats to health and it predicts that the number of deaths from this cause will be 10 million in 2050. AMR is a global public health threat and one of the major problems of our time.

What can we do when a bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics?

According to Inger Andersen (UNEP Director): “Pollution of air, soil and water flows undermines the human right to a clean and healthy environment; “The same factors that cause environmental degradation are exacerbating the AMR problem.” Reducing pollution will help tackle antibiotic-resistant superbugs and curb deaths from AMR. Infection is the second cause of death in the world, it is urgently necessary to discover effective drugs to deal with the great negative bacteria. The increasing resistance of some diseases to drugs is the biggest threat to health in the coming years, which will significantly increase the number of deaths from AMR. A multi-sectoral response is needed that recognizes that the health of people, animals, plants and the environment are interdependent.

A recent work led by researcher Zhenchao Zhou (Faculty of Environmental and Resource Sciences/Zhejiang University/China), published in The Lancet Planetary Health, concludes: “Poor air quality is another potential factor in the rise of super-resistance of various bacteria. ” For antibiotics. The results obtained indicate a possible association; If air quality guidelines required by WHO are achieved, 23% of deaths caused by superbugs could be prevented by 2050. Increasing levels of air pollution are linked to increased antibiotic resistance.

Misuse of antibiotics is the main factor in AMR, although new analysis suggests air pollution may be a contributing factor. If we control air pollution we will reduce the harmful effects of poor air quality on health, and in turn we will fight against the growth and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. AMR increases with PM2.5, which is one of the main drivers of resistance to antibiotics. It is estimated that more than 4 million premature deaths per year are caused by exposure to PM2.5-related air pollution, primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels, tobacco smoke and forest fires. It will either take a drastic change in policies by governments around the world to fight air pollution or antibiotic resistance is expected to increase by 17% by 2050.


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