Climate change is already affecting the spread of infectious diseases--and human health and biodiversity worldwide--according to disease ecologists reporting research results in this week's issue of the journal Science.
Modeling disease outcomes from host and parasite responses to climate variables, they say, could help public health officials and environmental managers address the challenges posed by the changing landscape of infectious disease.
"Earth's changing climate and the global spread of infectious diseases are threatening human health, agriculture and wildlife," said Sam Scheiner, National Science Foundation (NSF) program director for the joint NSF-National Institutes of Health Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases Program, which funded the research.
"Solving these problems requires a comprehensive approach that unites scientists from biology, the geosciences and the social sciences."
According to lead author Sonia Altizer of the University of Georgia, the issue of climate change and disease has provoked intense debate over the last decade, particularly in the case of diseases that affect humans.
In the Science paper, Altizer and her colleagues--Richard Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies; Pieter Johnson of the University of Colorado; Susan Kutz of the University of Calgary and Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre; and Drew Harvell of Cornell University--laid out an agenda for future research and action.
"For a lot of human diseases, responses to climate change depend on the wealth of nations, healthcare infrastructure, and the ability to take mitigating measures," Altizer said.
"The climate signal, in many cases, is hard to tease apart from other factors like vector control, and vaccine and drug availability."
In diseases affecting wildlife and agricultural ecosystems, however, findings show that climate warming is already causing changes.
"In many cases, we're seeing an increase in disease and parasitism," Altizer said. "But the effect of climate change on these disease relationships depends on the physiology of the organisms and on the structure of natural communities."
At the organism level, climate change can alter the physiology of parasites. Some of the clearest examples are found in the Arctic, where temperatures are rising rapidly. Parasites are developing faster as a result. A lungworm that affects muskoxen, for instance, may be transmitted over a longer period each summer, making it a more serious problem for the populations it infects.
Climate change is also affecting entire plant and animal communities.
Community-level responses to rising temperatures are evident in tropical marine environments such as the coral reef ecosystems of the Caribbean. Warmer water temperatures have directly stressed corals and facilitated infections by pathogenic fungi and bacteria. When corals succumb, other species that depend on them are affected.
The potential consequences of these changes are serious. The combination of warmer temperatures and altered disease patterns is placing growing numbers of species at risk of extinction, the scientists say.
In human health, there is a direct risk from pathogens like dengue, malaria and cholera. All are linked to warmer temperatures.
Indirect risks also exist in threats to agricultural systems and game species that are crucial for subsistence and cultural activities.
The scientists recommend building on and expanding data on the physiological responses of hosts and parasites to temperature change. Those mechanisms may offer clues to how a system will respond to climate warming.
"We'd like to be able to predict, for example, that if the climate warms by a certain amount, then in a particular host-parasite system we might see an increase from one to two disease transmission cycles each year," Altizer said.
"But we'd also like to try to tie these predictions to actions that might be taken."
Some of those actions might involve more monitoring and surveillance, adjusting the timing of vector control measures and adopting new management measures.
These could include, for instance, closing coral reefs to human activity if a disease outbreak is predicted, or changing the planting strategy for crops to compensate for unusually high risks of certain diseases.
The researchers also point out that certain local human communities, such as those of indigenous peoples in the Arctic, could be disproportionately affected by climate-disease interactions.
Predicting where these local-scale effects might be most intense would allow societies to take measures to address issues such as health and food security."Involving local communities in disease surveillance," said Altizer, "could become essential."
Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Arctic Ocean > Climate change > Colorado river > Gates Foundation > NSF > climate warming > coral reef > ecosystem > health services > human health > infectious disease > infectious outbreaks > marine environment > physiological response > reef ecosystem > social science > warmer temperatures > water temperature
Innovative genetic tests for children with developmental disorders and epilepsy
11.07.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Oxygen loss in the coastal Baltic Sea is “unprecedentedly severe”
05.07.2018 | European Geosciences Union
A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.
The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
20.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences