Research – Rates of increase of antibiotic resistance and ambient temperature in Europe: a cross-national analysis of 28 countries between 2000-2016



Background. Widely recognized as a major public health threat globally, the rapid increase of antibiotic resistance in bacteria could soon render our most effective method to combat infections obsolete. Factors influencing the burden of resistance in human populations remain poorly described, though temperature is known to play an important role in mechanisms at the bacterial level. Methods. We performed an ecologic analysis of country level antibiotic resistance prevalence in 3 common bacterial pathogens across 28 countries in Europe, and used multivariable models to evaluate associations with minimum temperature and other predictors over a 17-year period (2000-2016). We quantified the effects of minimum temperature, population density, and antibiotic consumption on the rate of change of antibiotic resistance across geographies. Findings. For three common bacterial pathogens and four classes of antibiotics, we found evidence of a long-term effect of ambient minimum temperature on rates of increase of antibiotic resistance across 28 countries in Europe between 2000-2016. Specifically, we show that across all antibiotic classes for the pathogens E. coli and K. pneumoniae, European countries with 10°C warmer ambient temperatures have experienced more rapid increases in antibiotic resistance over the 17-year period, ranging between 0.33%/year (95% CI 0.2, 0.5) and 1.2%/year (0.4, 1.9), even after accounting for recognized drivers of resistance including antibiotic consumption and population density. We found a decreasing relationship for S. aureus and methicillin of -0.4%/year (95% CI -0.7, 0.0), reflecting widespread declines in MRSA across Europe over the study period. Interpretation. Ambient temperature may be an important modulator of the rate of change of antibiotic resistance. Our findings suggest that rising temperatures globally may hasten the spread of resistance and complicate efforts to mitigate it.

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