Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Snail fever expected to decline in Africa due to climate change

Research The dangerous parasite Schistosoma mansoni that causes snail fever in humans could become significantly less common in the future a new international study led by researchers from the University of Copenhagen predicts.
The results are surprising because they contradict the general assumption that climate change leads to greater geographical spread of diseases. The explanation is that the parasite’s host snails stand to lose suitable habitat due to climate change.

“Our research shows that the expected effects of climate change will lead to a reduction in suitable habitats for four out of five species of host snails for the parasite. According to our models, several areas will become too hot for the snails in the future and new precipitation patterns will affect the freshwater areas where they live”, says postdoc Anna -Sofie Stensgaard from the Danish National Research Foundation Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen.

Several of the freshwater snails acting as intermediate host for the schistosomiasis parasite, are predicted to have fewer climatically suitable habitat areas in the future. Photo: Henry Madsen, Department of Veterinary Disease Biology.

Schistosomiasis is an infectious disease caused by parasitic flatworms of the genus Schistosoma.

They infect humans by penetrating the skin when in contact with water. They spread in freshwater areas such as rivers and lakes where fresh water snails act as intermediate host for the parasite's larvae.

Therefore, the snails’ habitats are of great importance for the spread of the disease.

Up to 19 % reduction in infectious areas

The researchers modeled the changes in snail habitat from today to 2080 under various climate change scenarios, and what that will mean for the spread of the parasite. The forecasts show up to 19 % reduction in the total geographical area of infection risk in Africa, as the geographical distribution of the main host snail will be reduced significantly.

“Our results are consistent with the scientific view that climate change leads to lower biodiversity, but not that climate change necessarily leads to a greater spread of diseases”, Anna -Sofie Stensgaard explains about the study that has just been published in the scientific journal Acta Tropica.

New areas at risk

Even though the overall infection is predicted to decline in Africa, the study also identifies some areas where the disease could spread. Senior researcher Thomas Kristensen from the Department of Veterinary Disease Biology explains:

“Our models are not designed to pinpoint changes on a local scale but they provide an overall picture of a decline in areas suitable for the parasite in West and Central Africa, while it may be able to establish itself in new areas especially in Africa's southern regions.”

In addition, climate change will affect the host snails differently and one of the studied species actually stands to benefit from the changes. The study underlines that it is essential to include biological knowledge of different host species in the models to gain robust future scenarios for the spread of diseases.

Climate is not everything

The research also shows, however, that climate is not necessarily the most important factor for the spread of diseases such as snail fever. Natural and human-induced changes of the snails’ habitats, which are difficult to predict, may also play a very important role.

Humans are infected with schistosomiasis in freshwater areas like these, where freshwater snails act as intermediate hosts for the parasite. Photo Henry Madsen, Department of Veterinary Disease Biology. Download free press photo.

“Over results highlights that especially anthropogenic environmental change - in combination with climatic factors - is crucial for the present distribution of host snails in Africa”, concludes Anna -Sofie Stensgaard.

This is consistent with other studies showing that man-made changes in the environment such as the damming of rivers, irrigation of fields and construction of large water reservoirs can create new habitats for the snails, which could in turn increase the risk of infection.

The research was conducted in collaboration with researchers from Switzerland, Zambia, Uganda and Cameroon.


Post doc Anna -Sofie Stensgaard, mobile: +45 26297650
Senior researcher Thomas Kristensen, mobile: +45 40503674
Communications officer Elisabeth Wulffeld, mobile: +45 21179140

Anna-Sofie Stensgaard | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Inflammation Triggers Unsustainable Immune Response to Chronic Viral Infection
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

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: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

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...

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

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>