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Air Pollution Could Be Driving Antibiotic Resistance, New Lancet Study Finds

PM2.5 air pollution was one of the leading factors driving antibiotic resistance, accounting for 11 per cent of changes in average antibiotic resistance levels globally, this study found

Air Pollution Could Be Driving Antibiotic Resistance, New Lancet Study Finds
Sources of PM2.5 include industrial processes, road transport, and domestic coal and wood burning.

New Delhi: Controlling air pollution could aid in reducing antibiotic resistance, which is when disease-causing microbes are able to resist the drugs designed to kill them, according to new research published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal. The association between PM2.5 air pollution and increase in antibiotic resistance has strengthened over time, with enhances in PM2.5 levels leading to larger increases in antibiotic resistance in more recent years, the analysis found using data for 116 countries from 2000 to 2018.

Also Read: Scientists Identify Paths For Reducing Air Pollution In India

Sources of PM2.5 include industrial processes, road transport, and domestic coal and wood burning.

Previous research indicates 90 per cent of the world’s population, or 7.3 billion people, are directly exposed to unsafe average annual PM2.5 levels, with 80 per cent of them living in low- and middle-income countries.

PM2.5 air pollution was one of the leading factors driving antibiotic resistance, accounting for 11 per cent of changes in average antibiotic resistance levels globally, this study found.

Further, every 1 per cent rise in air pollution was linked with an increase in antibiotic resistance of between 0.5 and 1.9 per cent, depending on the pathogen, or the disease-causing microbe, the study covering nine bacterial pathogens and 43 types of antibiotics found.

The highest levels of antibiotic resistance were found to be in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, while levels in Europe and North America were found to be low.

Also Read: 39 Of World’s 50 Most Polluted Cities Are In India: World Air Quality Report

PM2.5 air pollution-driven antibiotic resistance was linked to an estimated 480,000 premature deaths in 2018, leading to additional economic costs of USD395 billion, the analysis said.

Owing to their huge populations, India and China are expected to face the greatest impact of PM2.5 changes on premature death toll from antibiotic resistance.

By 2050, levels of antibiotic resistance worldwide could increase by 17 per cent under no changes to current air pollution policies, the authors’ modelling suggested.

India is expected to experience a 2.5 per cent increase in antibiotic resistance resulting from a 10 per cent increase in yearly PM2.5 levels.

In other scenarios, such as increased health spending, controlling air pollution, improving drinking water and reducing antibiotic usage, the level of antibiotic resistance could be greatly reduced, the study said.

For example, limiting PM2.5 to 5 micrograms per cubic metres in the atmosphere (recommended by the World Health Organization) could decrease global antibiotic resistance by 17 per cent by 2050. It could further reduce premature deaths linked to antibiotic resistance by 23 per cent and save USD 640 billion annually, the study said. Lead author Hong Chen, Zhejiang University, China, said,

Antibiotic resistance and air pollution are each in their own right among the greatest threats to global health. 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 two-fold: 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.

Future research should investigate underlying mechanisms of how air pollutants impact antibiotic resistance, the study said.

Also Read:Air Pollution: How Effective Has National Clean Air Programme Been In Improving Air Quality?

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – theLGBTQ population,indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the currentCOVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water,SanitationandHygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fightmalnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health,adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues likeair pollution,waste management,plastic ban,manual scavengingand sanitation workers andmenstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India wheretoiletsare used andopen defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched byPrime Minister Narendra Modiin 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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