The Connection Between AMR and Climate Change

Written By: Biomeme Staff

It might not seem like warming global temperatures and drug-resistant bacteria have any connection. But, in fact, they do.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the world’s wicked problems because it is complex, ongoing, and seems impossibly difficult to solve. The same can be said of climate change. And they are not independent issues. A February 2023 report published by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), Bracing for Superbugs, describes how climate change and pollution exacerbate the spread of antimicrobial resistance, and there is growing evidence that the environment and our climate play a significant role in the spread of AMR. 

The Link Between Climate Change and AMR

As temperatures increase, human behavior changes, impacting migration patterns and creating unfortunately ideal conditions for infections to spread, bacteria to grow, and genetic material to be exchanged. Increasing temperatures and population density increase antibiotic resistance in common pathogens such as E. coli, pneumonia, and staph infections, in part because chronic over-prescription of antibiotics combined the improper disposal of antibiotics leads to further antimicrobial resistance through the water, air, and soil. 

The UNEP report analyzes the three economic sectors—chemical manufacturing, including pharmaceuticals; food and agriculture; and healthcare—that drive the growth and spread of superbugs through water pollution, whether that be hospital wastewater, agriculture run-off, or pharmaceutical effluents. These polluted waterways serve as a breeding ground and transportation system for infectious microorganisms. AMR and climate change are “interlinked public health priorities” requiring a “systemic approach to planetary health.” The COVID-19 pandemic increased the use of antibiotics, plastics, and biocides, shedding light on the issues while also adding to the problems at hand. The report stresses the importance of a One Health approach that considers environmental factors in developing action plans to address AMR.

Fighting AMR in a Warming World

COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic. The global rise in temperatures will continue to impact people, animals, and the planet in disastrous ways, creating more opportunities for pathogens to proliferate. In fact, the World Health Organization considers AMR and climate change to be two of the top ten global health challenges. The World Bank estimates that there will be a global GDP loss of $3.4 trillion annually by 2030 and 24 million people will be pushed into poverty if AMR rates continue at their current pace.
When it comes to AMR, we at Biomeme are strong advocates of a systems-based approach rooted in the concept of One Health—the recognition that the health of humans, animals, and the environment are interconnected and interdependent. This will require work across sectors, industries, states, and countries to slow the spread of AMR, limit the issue and overuse of antibiotics, and invest in wastewater treatments and monitoring to reduce waterway pollution and improve infectious disease surveillance.

Get the latest tips from Biomeme shipped right to your inbox

Our Approach

The Latest in Antibiotic Resistance: Nanobots, Supercomputers, and Third-World Hotspots

From the battlefield to the kitchen table and everywhere in between, antibiotic resistance is cropping up in—and being battled—in new and evolving ways. Antibiotic resistance (ABR) fits under the...


The Connection Between AMR and Climate Change

It might not seem like warming global temperatures and drug-resistant bacteria have any connection. But, in fact, they do. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the world’s wicked problems because...

Our Approach

Explaining Antibiotic Stewardship

Overuse of antibiotics has led to a losing battle against mutating, drug-resistant bacteria. A restrained approach to antibiotic prescription will be key to addressing this massive global health...