Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Climate change likely to worsen threat of diarrheal disease in Botswana, arid African countries

Virginia Tech researcher say climate driving diarrheal disease

In a National Science Foundation funded study, Kathleen Alexander, an associate professor of wildlife at Virginia Tech, found that climate drives a large part of diarrheal disease and increases the threat of climate change for vulnerable communities.

The only study of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa is based on three decades of historical data and has important implications for arid countries around the world struggling with poverty and increasing health challenges.

Alexander, a veterinarian, teaches in Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources and Environment and conducts research at the Blacksburg, Va., campus and at her nonprofit research center, the Center for African Resources: Animals, Communities, and Land Use(CARACAL), in Chobe, Botswana.

Alexander's research study, "Climate Change Is Likely to Worsen the Public Health Threat of Diarrheal Disease in Botswana," was published today (March 26, 2013) in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Alexander and colleagues analyzed data on diarrheal disease from 1974, eight years after Botswana gained independence from British rule, through 2003.

"Botswana proactively set up a health surveillance program shortly after it became independent. Over such a long time period, however, it was not easy locating all the historical documents pertaining to diarrhea case incidence," Alexander said.

"Finding such data in Africa is difficult, and this explains why long-term studies of climate and health interactions are uncommon," she continued. "Our work indicates that there is a critical need to identify climate-health interactions across the continent and develop appropriate adaptive strategies in response."

The Botswana Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment Wildlife and Tourism provided research assistance. The Wildize Foundation, an African conservation organization, supplemented funding. Researchers Marcos Carzolio and Eric Vance from Virginia Tech and Douglas Goodin from Kansas State University co-authored the study.

"Diarrheal disease is an important health challenge, accounting for the majority of childhood deaths globally and the second highest in Botswana," Alexander said. "Our findings suggest that climate change will increase the occurrence of diarrhea and the burden of disease among vulnerable populations in Botswana and similarly affected regions."

Botswana is an arid, landlocked country in southern Africa with a subtropical climate of distinct wet and dry seasons. Alexander and her co-authors evaluated monthly reports of diarrheal disease among patients treated at Botswana health facilities since 1974 and compared that data with climatic variables over that same period.

"Our analysis suggests that forecasted climate change increases in temperature and decreases in precipitation for the region are likely to increase dry season diarrheal disease incidence, while diarrheal disease incidence in the wet season is likely to decline," Alexander explained.

Diarrheal case incidence peaks in both the wet and dry seasons in Botswana with mean case incidence 20 percent higher on average in the dry season over the wet season.

"We were not expecting diarrheal disease to be worse in the dry season," Alexander pointed out. "These dry season diarrheal disease peaks occur during the hottest and driest times of the year, conditions that can increase fly activity and density. This is significant, as flies can be important in the transmission of diarrheal-disease-causing microorganisms."

Alexander believes flies may provide an important dry season amplifying influence on factors already contributing to diarrheal disease. "It is an important area of research that we will be pursuing," she added.

"Our results identify significant climate-health interactions and highlight the need for an escalated public health focus on controlling diarrheal disease in Botswana," she continued. "Understanding the potential health impacts of climate change in low-income countries will be essential to developing mitigation and adaptive strategies designed to protect these vulnerable populations expected to be impacted the hardest but least able to adapt."

"While our work identifies important climate-health interactions and increased vulnerability of Botswana to forecasted changes in regional climate," Alexander cautioned, "it is important to remember that this does not account for affects of nonclimatic factors such as future improvements in sanitation infrastructure and hygiene. The impact of forecasted climate change on this disease syndrome is likely to be significantly reduced if present day public health deficiencies are fully identified and addressed."

"It is essential, however, that we include affected communities in identifying climate change preparedness," Alexander emphasized. "Lack of sociocultural considerations in public health planning can result in locally applied interventions being nonsustainable."

Understanding climate variability as a determinant of infectious disease is increasingly seen as a cornerstone of climate change preparedness and an urgent area of need in Africa and elsewhere around the world.

"Much of the threat of climate change on health results from our vulnerabilities to environmental change. These vulnerabilities are primarily associated with the poor, who are most dependent on the environment and least able to adapt to changes in these systems," she explained. "If we address current community health deficiencies now, climate change impacts are not likely to have such important and potentially devastating consequences in the future."

Because of the magnitude of Alexander's work in Botswana, she is one of three scholars selected as an African regional expert by the World Health Organization and the Convention on Biological Diversity secretariat to participate in a regional workshop in Mozambique April 2-5. As a specialist in disease ecology with associated ecological and human dimensions, she will make a presentation to leaders from various African countries on integrating health and biodiversity in policy and planning efforts.

"Kathy is a brilliant scholar who successfully connects her many skills to people in Botswana," said Paul Winistorfer, dean of Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources and Environment. "She recognizes that her most important goal is to improve the lives and livelihood of these people, while respecting the human-wildlife interaction that is coupled to environmental sustainability."

Lynn Davis | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

nachricht New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>