USA Today/Future of Personal Health Op-Ed: Floods, superbugs, and lessons from Texas
“When Hurricane Harvey stalled over Houston in 2017, the acute devastation was heartbreaking—more than 100 people died, an estimated 300,000 buildings and homes were damaged or destroyed, and several wastewater treatment facilities failed, sending rivers of bacteria-loaded sewage into the streets and people’s homes,” writes Dr. Henry Skinner, CEO of the AMR Action Fund, in an op-ed on the rise of fungal infections in the wake of natural disasters and their growing resistance to antimicrobial treatment.
“Floods are just one of the troubling synergies between antibiotic resistance and climate change. Several studies show that extreme heat—another hallmark of global warming—can accelerate the rate at which microbes grow, spread, and adapt to live at body temperature. Others have flagged concerns that thawing permafrost could bring forth entirely new microbes that are resistant to our available medications,” Dr. Skinner writes. “In the face of such evidence, the world needs to better prepare for the likelihood that extreme weather events will drive outbreaks of drug-resistant infections. Policymakers who are designing and implementing climate resiliency plans would do well to consider the multifaceted dynamics of antibiotic resistance, from wastewater management and agricultural practices, to public health surveillance systems and the paucity of new antibiotics in development.”