Global warming could be fuelling the spread of drug resistant superbugs, warns new research.
Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) has been linked with rising temperatures in a study of 30 European countries.
Scientists explained that AMR is a catch-all term for bacteria, viruses and parasites that have become resistant to commonly used medicines.
Study lead author Prof Simone Scheithauer, Director of the Institute of Infection Control and Infectious Diseases, University Medical Centre Göttingen, Germany, said: “Our study identified a novel association between AMR and climatic factors in Europe.
“These results reveal two aspects: climatic factors significantly contribute to the prediction of AMR in different types of healthcare systems and societies, while climate change might increase AMR transmission, in particular carbapenem resistance.
“While these results remain hypothetical as it is unknown if any causal association exists, future analysis of AMR and climatic developments is necessary to determine whether potential climate change effects on AMR become stronger.”
AMR is a particular threat across the Mediterranean Basin and has been linked with increasing temperatures in the USA.
Researchers found a six-year prevalence of carbapenem resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa (CRPA), Klebsiella pneumoniae (CRKP), multiresistant Escherichia coli (MREC), and Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the countries.
It was based on data published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Statistical analysis and computer modelling identified links between AMR and seasonal temperature.
This was “significant” in CRKP, MREC and MRSA and warm-season mean temperatures.
Socioeconomic and health systems also played an indirect link with AMR, the study found.
Warmer temperatures were a more important factor to MRSA than the antimicrobial drugs used by patients being treated in the community.
CRPA was significantly associated with the warm-season change in temperature – climate change.
And models that estimated AMR in four other countries which were not included in the database used – Belarus, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey – displayed varying degrees of accuracy compared to health records.
There were relatively good matches for CRPA in all countries except Belarus.
The findings were due to be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Amsterdam.