University of Arizona researchers Cory Morin and Andrew Comrie developed a climate-driven mosquito population model to simulate the abundance across the southern United States of one type of mosquito known to carry and spread West Nile virus to humans.
They found that, under the future climate conditions predicted by climate change models, many locations will see a lengthening of the mosquito season but shrinking summer mosquito populations due to hotter and dryer conditions allowing fewer larvae to survive.
However, these changes vary significantly depending on temperature and precipitation. For example, drops in summer mosquito populations are expected to be significant in the South, but not further north where there will still be enough rain to maintain summer breeding habitats and extreme temperatures are less common. These findings suggest that disease transmission studies and programs designed to control populations of disease-carrying mosquitos must be targeted locally to maximize their effectiveness, the authors argue.
"It used to be an open question whether climate change is going to make disease-carrying mosquitoes more abundant, and the answer is it will depend on the time and the location," said Morin, who did the study as part of his doctoral dissertation in the lab of Comrie, UA provost and professor in the UA's School of Geography and Development. Morin is now a postdoctoral researcher on Comrie's team.
"One assumption was that with rising temperatures, mosquitoes would thrive across the board," Morin said. "Our study shows this is unlikely. Rather, the effects of climate change are different depending on the region and because of that, the response of West Nile virus transmitting mosquito populations will be different as well."
"The mosquito species we study is subtropical, and at warmer temperatures the larvae develop faster," Morin explained. "However, there is a limit – if temperatures climb over that limit, mortality increases. Temperature, precipitation or both can limit the populations, depending on local conditions."
In the southwestern U.S. for example, hotter and drier summers are expected to delay the onset of mosquito season; however, late summer and fall rains are expected to result in a longer season. Conversely, the south-central U.S. will see fewer mosquito days due to less rain during summer and early fall. Higher temperatures projected for the shoulder seasons – spring and fall – will likely make for a longer mosquito season across much of the U.S., except in the Southwest during spring where severe drying inhibits population development.
Morin pointed out that while the study focused on one important part in West Nile virus' infectious cycle – mosquitoes of the species Culex quinquefasciatus – there are other mosquito species that transmit the virus. Furthermore, the virus also infects birds, another part in the cycle that was not included in the model simulations.
A so-called container breeder, Culex quinquefasciatus lays its eggs in small volumes of standing water. The larvae therefore depend heavily on precipitation, unlike species that prefer larger bodies of water such as lakes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 70 to 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus do not develop symptoms. The remaining 20 percent will have flu-like symptoms for a week or two, while severe effects are limited to less than 1 percent of infected individuals. They include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and mostly affect the elderly and individuals with compromised immune response.
First detected in North America in 1999, West Nile virus has since spread across the continental United States and Canada. Cases of humans infected with West Nile virus have been documented in every state in the contiguous United States. The areas of major epidemics vary from year to year. The largest most recent outbreak occurred in Texas in 2012, with 1,868 disease cases reported to the CDC.
"'Which locations are likely to experience epidemics in the future?' – those are the kinds of questions studies like ours may help prepare for," said Morin. "We don't model the actual virus, we only look at the vector, but our study informs at least one part of the ecology of the virus. It is unique in projecting the impacts of climate change on a West Nile vector."
Morin said the study could help managers and decision makers better anticipate how mosquito populations will respond to changes in climate and prepare accordingly.
"For example, if projected precipitation and temperature changes for a given area are indicating a longer mosquito season, public health officials can plan to adapt to that possibility through abatement and awareness campaigns.
This story and photos are online:
Cory W. Morin, 603-498-1246, email@example.com
Andrew C. Comrie, firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Stolte, 520-954-1964, email@example.com
Daniel Stolte | Source: University of Arizona
Further information: www.arizona.edu
More articles from Studies and Analyses:
Low vitamin B12 levels increase the risk of fractures in older men
10.12.2013 | University of Gothenburg
Name Americanization Pays, Study Finds
10.12.2013 | Institut zur Zukunft der Arbeit
Researchers from Brown University and the University of Hawaii have found some mineralogical surprises in the Moon's largest impact crater.
Data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter shows a diverse mineralogy in the subsurface of the giant South Pole Aitken basin.
The differing mineral signatures could be reflective of the minerals dredged up at the time of the giant impact 4 billion years ago, ...
In power electronics systems bonded connections create the central electrical connections between adjoining surfaces.
The quality of these bonded connections is one of the main factors that determines the reliability and availability of drive systems in electric vehicles, and hence constitutes a major design challenge for German auto manufacturers aiming to electrify their vehicles.
Now the partners participating in the RoBE (Robust Bonds in ...
International team of scientists develops new feedback method for optimizing the laser pulse shapes used in the control of chemical reactions
In many ways, traditional chemical synthesis is similar to cooking. To alter the final product, you can change the ingredients or their ratio, change the method of mixing ingredients, or change the temperature or pressure of the environment of the ingredients.
Like an accomplished chef, chemists have become very skilled ...
A genetic defect protects mice from infection with influenza viruses
A new study published in the scientific journal PLOS Pathogens points out that mice lacking a protein called Tmprss2 are no longer affected by certain flu viruses.
The discovery was made by researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig in collaboration with colleagues from Göttingen and ...
The Light: Global study gets underway with online user survey
Light has a fundamental impact on our sense of well-being and performance. In cooperation with Zumtobel, a supplier of lighting solutions, Fraunhofer IAO has launched a global user survey of lighting quality in offices. The objective is to identify the best lighting conditions for a variety of spaces and lighting ...
10.12.2013 | Physics and Astronomy
10.12.2013 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
10.12.2013 | Power and Electrical Engineering
10.12.2013 | Event News
05.12.2013 | Event News
04.12.2013 | Event News