Stories about: climate change

Scientists find link between increases in local temperature and antibiotic resistance

Image representing the rise of antibiotic resistance
Illustration by Fawn Gracey

Over-prescribing has long been thought to increase antibiotic resistance in bacteria. But could much bigger environmental pressures be at play?

While studying the role of climate on the distribution of antibiotic resistance across the geography of the U.S., a multidisciplinary team of epidemiologists from Boston Children’s Hospital found that higher local temperatures and population densities correlate with higher antibiotic resistance in common bacterial strains. Their findings were published today in Nature Climate Change.

“The effects of climate are increasingly being recognized in a variety of infectious diseases, but so far as we know this is the first time it has been implicated in the distribution of antibiotic resistance over geographies,” says the study’s lead author, Derek MacFadden, MD, an infectious disease specialist and research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital. “We also found a signal that the associations between antibiotic resistance and temperature could be increasing over time.”

During their study, the team assembled a large database of U.S. antibiotic resistance in E. coli, K. pneumoniae and S. aureus, pulling from hospital, laboratory and disease surveillance data documented between 2013 and 2015. Altogether, their database comprised more than 1.6 million bacterial specimens from 602 unique records across 223 facilities and 41 states.

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Climate change: A threat to our kids’ health

Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH, is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment and a pediatric hospitalist at Children’s Hospital Boston. He strives to promote a deeper understanding of the health effects of global environmental change, and is coauthor of Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity (Oxford University Press, 2008).

Remember last July? It was hot. During a three-day swelter early in the month, the mercury topped 100°F in Boston for only about the twelfth time in the past century. I wasn’t surprised when I found myself caring for many kids at Children’s who wound up with asthma attacks that left them gasping for air, while just trying to enjoy a summer day. Heat catalyzes the production of ground-level ozone, a potent lung irritant.

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