Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Climate changes increase risk of plague

25.08.2006
Climate changes can lead to more cases of plague. Warmer springs and moister summers can create conditions that will increase the prevalence of the plague bacterium Yersina pestis in great gerbils in Central Asia. These are the facts of a scientific article published in this week’s edition of the American scientific journal PNAS, by Nils C. Stenseth, Professor of Biology at the University of Oslo.

"A temperature increase of one degree Celsius in spring may lead to a 50 percent increase in the prevalence of the plague bacterium," he stated to Uniforum, the University of Oslo’s own news bulletin.

Climate changes cannot lead to any new Black Death, but it is quite clear that a small increase in temperature may create more cases of bubonic plague than we have today,” said Professor Stenseth, who heads the international top-notch Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES) at the University of Oslo. Using field data from a national surveillance programme which monitored the stock of gerbils in Kazakhstan from 1949-1995, and using new statistical techniques, Stenseth and his team found a clear connection between the prevalence of the bacterium Yersina pestis in gerbils and climate variations.

"Samples from the annual rings of trees in Kazakhstan revealed that when the Black Death broke out there in the 14th century, the springs were warm and the summers were wet. Conditions were the same at the onset of the plague of the 1800’s in the same region," he explained. Stenseth obtained these figures from the Swiss researcher Jan Esper, one of the co-authors of the article. He is pleased that the researchers were given access to data from the health authorities’ surveillance programme in Kazakhstan.

After Kazakhstan initiated this surveillance programme in 1949, the cases of plague here decreased from over 100 cases a year to a few cases a year. In the past Stenseth and his colleagues have been close to finding out why the prevalence of the bacterium varies from year to year.

"In an article we wrote on this bacterium in Science in 2004, I had a feeling that there was a part of the variation which we couldn’t explain adequately. But we could have explained it, had we included climate as a cause of variation in the prevalence of this bacteria," Stenseth said to Uniforum.

Hence, one of the candidates of co-author Noelle I. Samia from the University of Iowa was given the task of running all the data of the surveillance programme through an advanced statistical analysis.

"The results of this work enabled us to write this article and conclude that climate changes have affected the prevalence of the bacterium which causes plague," Stenseth said. He was not sure what the conclusions would be after the investigations were finished.

"In the US, researchers have studied infectious diseases that are passed on among humans, indicating a similar connection between the prevalence of bacteria and climate changes, but this is the first time anyone has found a clear connection between the prevalence of the plague bacteria carried by gerbils and climate change," he stated.

"It was precisely in this area that the genetic and climatic conditions which brought on the Black Death and the Asian flu, emerged", he said.

It is the prevalence of the bacterium Yersina pestis which has been the subject of study for Nils Chr. Stenseth and his colleagues from the Universities of Norway, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, UK and the US. This bacterium lives in gerbils in the semideserts and steppes of Central Asia, and it is passed from gerbils to other animals and humans through flea bites. The gerbils themselves are not infected by the plague bacterium, they merely serve as hosts.

"In central Asia people can also catch the plague through infected camel meat, as camels often lay in places with gerbil burrows," Stenseth explained.

Thomas Evensen | alfa
Further information:
http://www.forskningsradet.no
http://www.pnas.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers target protein that protects bacteria's DNA 'recipes'
21.08.2018 | University of Rochester

nachricht Protein interaction helps Yersinia cause disease
21.08.2018 | Schwedischer Forschungsrat - The Swedish Research Council

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: It’s All in the Mix: Jülich Researchers are Developing Fast-Charging Solid-State Batteries

There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.

The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases

21.08.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Researchers target protein that protects bacteria's DNA 'recipes'

21.08.2018 | Life Sciences

A paper battery powered by bacteria

21.08.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>