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

Euro Surveill. 2020 Nov;25(45):1900414. doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.25.45.1900414.


BackgroundThe rapid increase of bacterial antibiotic resistance could soon render our most effective method to address infections obsolete. Factors influencing pathogen resistance prevalence in human populations remain poorly described, though temperature is known to contribute to mechanisms of spread.AimTo quantify the role of temperature, spatially and temporally, as a mechanistic modulator of transmission of antibiotic resistant microbes.MethodsAn ecologic analysis was performed on country-level antibiotic resistance prevalence in three common bacterial pathogens across 28 European countries, collectively representing over 4 million tested isolates. Associations of minimum temperature and other predictors with change in antibiotic resistance rates over 17 years (2000-2016) were evaluated with multivariable models. The effects of predictors on the antibiotic resistance rate change across geographies were quantified.ResultsDuring 2000-2016, for Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae, European countries with 10°C warmer ambient minimum temperatures compared to others, experienced more rapid resistance increases across all antibiotic classes. Increases ranged between 0.33%/year (95% CI: 0.2 to 0.5) and 1.2%/year (95% CI: 0.4 to 1.9), even after accounting for recognised resistance drivers including antibiotic consumption and population density. For Staphylococcus aureus a decreasing relationship of -0.4%/year (95% CI: -0.7 to 0.0) was found for meticillin resistance, reflecting widespread declines in meticillin-resistant S. aureus across Europe over the study period.ConclusionWe found evidence of a long-term effect of ambient minimum temperature on antibiotic resistance rate increases in Europe. Ambient temperature might considerably influence antibiotic resistance growth rates, and explain geographic differences observed in cross-sectional studies. Rising temperatures globally may hasten resistance spread, complicating mitigation efforts.

Keywords: Europe; antibiotic resistance; temperature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial* / drug effects
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Temperature*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents