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

27.03.2013
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 Over such a long time period, however, it was not easy locating all the historical documents pertaining to diarrhea case incidence," Alexander said.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:
http://www.vt.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Organ-on-a-chip mimics heart's biomechanical properties
23.02.2017 | Vanderbilt University

nachricht Researchers identify cause of hereditary skeletal muscle disorder
22.02.2017 | Klinikum der Universität München

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: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>