The recently concluded G20 summit highlighted the urgency to address climate change and environmental degradation. Amidst these global challenges, a new perilous problem is emerging – the connection between air pollution and antibiotic resistance. A study published in the health journal “Lancet” has found that inhaling PM 2.5, a type of air pollutant, can lead to an increase in antibiotic resistance.
PM 2.5 refers to particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or smaller. These particles, while invisible to the naked eye, can pose serious health risks, particularly to the respiratory system. The study compared PM 2.5 levels with levels of antibiotic resistance and discovered that higher pollutant levels are associated with greater antibiotic resistance. This is a cause for concern as antibiotic-resistant bacteria can withstand antibiotic treatments, rendering the drugs ineffective.
The research collected data from 116 countries and analyzed nine pathogens and 43 drugs. It was observed that the indiscriminate use of antibiotics is a major contributing factor to the surge in antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic Resistance Genes (ARGs) play a role in this process, allowing bacteria to acquire resistance through horizontal gene transfer.
The Lancet study concludes that addressing PM 2.5 levels is crucial. Failure to do so may lead to a 17% increase in antibiotic resistance and a 56% rise in related deaths worldwide by 2050. Adhering to the World Health Organization’s recommended PM 2.5 level of 5 µg/m³ could result in a 17% reduction in antibiotic resistance and a 23% decrease in deaths.
India, with its high levels of air pollution, particularly in cities like New Delhi, faces significant challenges. Immediate measures are needed to control ammonia release in farms, ban refuse burning, and transition rural brick kilns to cleaner technologies. Additionally, converting coal-based power plants to clean energy is crucial. To achieve these goals, India must establish financial mechanisms such as investment funds with a green focus to catalyze the growth of green industries.
Addressing air pollution and its connection to antibiotic resistance is paramount to prevent a future where common antibiotics lose their efficacy due to polluted air.
(Source: The Lancet, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, CleanAir organization)