Climate Change

Vector-borne diseases may shift base with warmer temperatures

Stanford researchers say climate change will increase risk of vector-borne diseases spreading to countries characterised by cooler climate till now

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 18 March 2019
Representational Photo: Getty Images

In a statement, Stanford scientists claim climate change is altering breeding grounds of disease-carrying mosquitoes, shifting the burden of disease across the globe.

Until now, developing tropical countries accounted for most mosquito-borne diseases, due to the warm temperatures and poor socioeconomic conditions.

But with the climate changing across the globe, the trend is set to shift towards the Northern Hemisphere countries. Biologist Erin Mordecai and her colleagues at Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment have created models to forecast how mosquito breeding grounds are going to change with increasing global temperatures.

“It’s coming for you. If the climate is becoming more optimal for transmission, it’s going to become harder and harder to do mosquito control,” Mordecai said in a statement.

They highlight that different mosquitoes are adapted to different temperatures. “For example, malaria is most likely to spread at 25 degrees Celsius, while Zika risk is highest at 29 degrees Celsius.”

The researchers forecast that as the climate warms further, Dengue will continue to affect hot regions like sub-Saharan Africa as it’s adapted to warmest temperatures. However, mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus — that are adapted to temperate climates — may migrate to the US as it becomes warmer.  

Hence, rising temperatures around the world will increase the risk of vector-borne diseases spreading to countries characterised by cooler climate till now.

“As the planet warms, we need to be able to predict what populations will be at risk for infectious diseases because prevention is always superior to reaction,” Desiree LaBeaud, an associate professor at Stanford Medical School, who also collaborated on the research, was quoted as saying.

The researchers are now working on a map to pin point future changes in the distribution of vector-borne diseases. Their findings assume significance in the backdrop of two recent reports stating that the world remains ill-prepared for the health impacts that come with increasing temperatures and extreme weather events.

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