Climate change is already affecting the spread of infectious diseases--and human health and biodiversity worldwide--according to disease ecologists reporting research results in this week's issue of the journal Science.
Modeling disease outcomes from host and parasite responses to climate variables, they say, could help public health officials and environmental managers address the challenges posed by the changing landscape of infectious disease.
"Earth's changing climate and the global spread of infectious diseases are threatening human health, agriculture and wildlife," said Sam Scheiner, National Science Foundation (NSF) program director for the joint NSF-National Institutes of Health Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases Program, which funded the research.
"Solving these problems requires a comprehensive approach that unites scientists from biology, the geosciences and the social sciences."
According to lead author Sonia Altizer of the University of Georgia, the issue of climate change and disease has provoked intense debate over the last decade, particularly in the case of diseases that affect humans.
In the Science paper, Altizer and her colleagues--Richard Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies; Pieter Johnson of the University of Colorado; Susan Kutz of the University of Calgary and Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre; and Drew Harvell of Cornell University--laid out an agenda for future research and action.
"For a lot of human diseases, responses to climate change depend on the wealth of nations, healthcare infrastructure, and the ability to take mitigating measures," Altizer said.
"The climate signal, in many cases, is hard to tease apart from other factors like vector control, and vaccine and drug availability."
In diseases affecting wildlife and agricultural ecosystems, however, findings show that climate warming is already causing changes.
"In many cases, we're seeing an increase in disease and parasitism," Altizer said. "But the effect of climate change on these disease relationships depends on the physiology of the organisms and on the structure of natural communities."
At the organism level, climate change can alter the physiology of parasites. Some of the clearest examples are found in the Arctic, where temperatures are rising rapidly. Parasites are developing faster as a result. A lungworm that affects muskoxen, for instance, may be transmitted over a longer period each summer, making it a more serious problem for the populations it infects.
Climate change is also affecting entire plant and animal communities.
Community-level responses to rising temperatures are evident in tropical marine environments such as the coral reef ecosystems of the Caribbean. Warmer water temperatures have directly stressed corals and facilitated infections by pathogenic fungi and bacteria. When corals succumb, other species that depend on them are affected.
The potential consequences of these changes are serious. The combination of warmer temperatures and altered disease patterns is placing growing numbers of species at risk of extinction, the scientists say.
In human health, there is a direct risk from pathogens like dengue, malaria and cholera. All are linked to warmer temperatures.
Indirect risks also exist in threats to agricultural systems and game species that are crucial for subsistence and cultural activities.
The scientists recommend building on and expanding data on the physiological responses of hosts and parasites to temperature change. Those mechanisms may offer clues to how a system will respond to climate warming.
"We'd like to be able to predict, for example, that if the climate warms by a certain amount, then in a particular host-parasite system we might see an increase from one to two disease transmission cycles each year," Altizer said.
"But we'd also like to try to tie these predictions to actions that might be taken."
Some of those actions might involve more monitoring and surveillance, adjusting the timing of vector control measures and adopting new management measures.
These could include, for instance, closing coral reefs to human activity if a disease outbreak is predicted, or changing the planting strategy for crops to compensate for unusually high risks of certain diseases.
The researchers also point out that certain local human communities, such as those of indigenous peoples in the Arctic, could be disproportionately affected by climate-disease interactions.
Predicting where these local-scale effects might be most intense would allow societies to take measures to address issues such as health and food security."Involving local communities in disease surveillance," said Altizer, "could become essential."
Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Arctic Ocean > Climate change > Colorado river > Gates Foundation > NSF > climate warming > coral reef > ecosystem > health services > human health > infectious disease > infectious outbreaks > marine environment > physiological response > reef ecosystem > social science > warmer temperatures > water temperature
The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
22.11.2017 | Business and Finance
22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy