Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

More infectious diseases emerging because of climate change

16.02.2015

Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society B publishes special issue on climate change and vector-driven disease in humans

The appearance of infectious diseases in new places and new hosts, such as West Nile virus and Ebola, is a predictable result of climate change, says a noted zoologist affiliated with the Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


In some areas of Costa Rica, howler monkeys like this one are infected with parasites once limited to capuchin and spider monkeys. After humans hunted capuchins and spider monkeys out of existence in the region, the parasites immediately switched to howler monkeys, where they persist today.

Photo courtesy Daniel Brooks Photography

In an article published online today in conjunction with a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Daniel Brooks warns that humans can expect more such illnesses to emerge in the future, as climate change shifts habitats and brings wildlife, crops, livestock, and humans into contact with pathogens to which they are susceptible but to which they have never been exposed before.

"It's not that there's going to be one 'Andromeda Strain' that will wipe everybody out on the planet," Brooks said, referring to the 1971 science fiction film about a deadly pathogen. "There are going to be a lot of localized outbreaks putting pressure on medical and veterinary health systems. It will be the death of a thousand cuts."

Brooks and his co-author, Eric Hoberg, a zoologist with the U.S. National Parasite Collection of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, have personally observed how climate change has affected very different ecosystems. During his career, Brooks has focused primarily on parasites in the tropics, while Hoberg has worked primarily in Arctic regions.

Each has observed the arrival of species that hadn't previously lived in that area and the departure of others, Brooks said.

"Over the last 30 years, the places we've been working have been heavily impacted by climate change," Brooks said in an interview last week. "Even though I was in the tropics and he was in the Arctic, we could see something was happening." Changes in habitat mean animals are exposed to new parasites and pathogens.

For example, Brooks said, after humans hunted capuchin and spider monkeys out of existence in some regions of Costa Rica, their parasites immediately switched to howler monkeys, where they persist today. Some lungworms in recent years have moved northward and shifted hosts from caribou to muskoxen in the Canadian Arctic.

But for more than 100 years, scientists have assumed parasites don't quickly jump from one species to another because of the way parasites and hosts co-evolve.

Brooks calls it the "parasite paradox." Over time, hosts and pathogens become more tightly adapted to one another. According to previous theories, this should make emerging diseases rare, because they have to wait for the right random mutation to occur.

However, such jumps happen more quickly than anticipated. Even pathogens that are highly adapted to one host are able to shift to new ones under the right circumstances.

Brooks and Hoberg call for a "fundamental conceptual shift" recognizing that pathogens retain ancestral genetic capabilities allowing them to acquire new hosts quickly.

"Even though a parasite might have a very specialized relationship with one particular host in one particular place, there are other hosts that may be as susceptible," Brooks said.

In fact, the new hosts are more susceptible to infection and get sicker from it, Brooks said, because they haven't yet developed resistance.

Though resistance can evolve fairly rapidly, this only changes the emergent pathogen from an acute to a chronic disease problem, Brooks adds.

"West Nile Virus is a good example - no longer an acute problem for humans or wildlife in North America, it nonetheless is hhere to stay," he said.

The answer, Brooks said, is for greater collaboration between the public and veterinary health communities and the "museum" community - the biologists who study and classify life forms and how they evolve.

In addition to treating human cases of an emerging disease and developing a vaccine for it, he said, scientists need to learn which non-human species carry the pathogen.

Knowing the geographic distribution and the behavior of the non-human reservoirs of the pathogen could lead to public health strategies based on reducing risk of infection by minimizing human contact with infected animals, much likethose that reduced the incidence of malaria and yellow fever by reducing human contact with mosquitos.

Museum scientists versed in understanding the evolutionary relationships among species could use this knowledge to anticipate the risk of the pathogen becoming established outside of its native range.

Brooks, who earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was a zoology professor at the University of Toronto for 30 years until he retired early in 2011 to devote more time to his study of emerging infectious disease. In addition to being a senior research fellow with UNL's Manter Laboratory, he is a visiting senior fellow at the Universidade Federal do Parana, Brazil, funded by the Ciencias sem Fronteiras (Sciences without Borders) of the Brazilian government, and a visiting scholar with Debrecen University in Hungary.

Brooks' and Hoberg's article, "Evolution in action: climate change, biodiversity dynamics and emerging infectious disease," is part of a Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B issue on "Climate change and vector-borne diseases of humans," edited by Paul Parham, a specialist in infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College in London.

"We have to admit we're not winning the war against emerging diseases," Brooks said. "We're not anticipating them. We're not paying attention to their basic biology, where they might come from and the potential for new pathogens to be introduced."

Media Contact

Daniel Brooks
dnlbrooks@gmail.com
402-541-4456

 @UNLNews

http://www.unl.edu 

Daniel Brooks | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>