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Air pollution can cause antibiotic resistance to rise

The evidence suggests that PM2.5, harbouring antibiotic-resistant bacteria and genes, can be transmitted between environments and inhaled by unsuspecting humans. (Photo courtesy: Getty)

Air pollution can cause a dangerous rise in antibiotic resistance, affecting the health of every individual worldwide, according to a global study.

Moreover, the study, published in the Lancet Planetary Health journal, reveals that this connection has grown stronger over time, as increases in air pollution coincide with alarming surges in antibiotic resistance.

The researchers, hailing from both China and the UK, found that their analysis is the first to suggest the impact of air pollution on antibiotic resistance on a global scale.

Antibiotic resistance, a silent pandemic threatening our well-being, is rapidly expanding its lethal reach.

Air pollution can cause a dangerous rise in antibiotic resistance, affecting the health of every individual worldwide, according to a global study. (Photo courtesy: Getty)
Air pollution can cause a dangerous rise in antibiotic resistance, affecting the health of every individual worldwide, according to a global study. (Photo courtesy: Getty)

The evidence suggests that particulate matter PM2.5, harbouring antibiotic-resistant bacteria and genes, can be transmitted between environments and inhaled by unsuspecting humans.

Air pollution inflicts long-term suffering, leading to chronic afflictions such as heart disease, asthma, and lung cancer, ultimately shortening life expectancy.

The immediate repercussions of exposure to high pollution levels manifest as coughing, wheezing, and asthma attacks, prompting a surge in hospital and general practitioner visits worldwide.

The immediate repercussions of exposure to high pollution levels manifest as coughing, wheezing, and asthma attacks, prompting a surge in hospital and general practitioner visits worldwide. (Photo courtesy: PTI)
The immediate repercussions of exposure to high pollution levels manifest as coughing, wheezing, and asthma attacks, prompting a surge in hospital and general practitioner visits worldwide. (Photo courtesy: PTI)

Lead author Professor Hong Chen of Zhejiang University in China said, “The study not only will it reduce the harmful effects of poor air quality, it could also play a major role in combatting the rise and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

The main drivers are still the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, which are used to treat infections. But the study suggests the problem is being worsened by rising levels of air pollution. Curtailing air pollution could serve as a potent weapon against antibiotic resistance, say the researchers.

Hospitals, farms, and sewage-treatment facilities have been identified as potential sources, emitting and dispersing antibiotic-resistant particles through the air, spanning vast distances.

Until now, the influence of PM2.5 air pollution, composed of particles 30 times smaller than a human hair, on global antibiotic resistance remained largely enigmatic.

Startlingly, data indicates that a staggering 7.3 billion people worldwide are directly exposed to hazardous average annual PM2.5 levels.

The authors used data for 116 countries from 2000 to 2018, sources that included the World Health Organization, European Environment Agency and the World Bank.

Their findings confirm that antibiotic resistance escalates with PM2.5 levels, with every 10 per cent increase in air pollution ushering in a 1.1 per cent surge in antibiotic resistance.

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