Acinetobacter Baumannii: the Climate Change-Stemmed Drug-Resistant Bacteria


Bacteria and Climate ChangeTom Patterson is an example of a person who was infected by a bacterium resistant to every antibiotic we know.

Its name is Acinetobacter baumannii, and it’s often deadly. He became ill on his vacation in Egypt. Tom should have died, but he was saved by experimental bacteria-killing viruses known as bacteriophages. The same bacterium has afflicted many people in warmer countries. That story has raised a question about a connection between  drug-resistant bacteria and climate change.

Climate change has become a threat to global public health. It is responsible for an increase in the population of disease-transmitting insects, such as mosquitos. However, some specialists believe that it also causes mutations of bacterial and other pathogens and makes them resistant to the existing antibiotics. The warmth encourages bacteria to grow, increasing their chances to evolve and become resistant to previously effective drugs.

It became a world-scale treat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  there are more than 2 million cases and 23 thousand deaths annually in the U.S. from infections that are resistant to antibiotics.

Boston Children’s Hospital and the University of Toronto conducted a research regarding the issue . The scientists assembled a huge database (1.6 million bacteria) of U.S. antibiotic resistance information related to E. coli, K. pneumoniae and S. aureus. They compared the data with the local temperatures and the latitude coordinates. The result showed that the local average minimum temperature increases of 10 degrees Celsius were connected to increases of the resistance in 4.2, 2.2 and 3.6 percent of E. coli, K. pneumoniae, and S. aureus respectively.

Additionally, they have found that the increase of 10,000 people per square mile was linked to 3 and 6 percent increase in drug-resistance of E. Coli and K. pneumoniae. Finally, they noticed  the fact that in regions with higher bacterial resistance more antibiotics were prescribed.

According to other experts, environmental populations of bacteria might increase in size , the horizontal transmission of bacterial resistance genes also might increase , and the  interactions with animal populations might evolve. 

There are no conclusions by now. Researchers need to continue to study the question in order to find the answer. However, if the temperature is the key factor, then no region is safe from the bacteria and our future can be worse than previously thought.

[via CleanTechnica]

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