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article imageNew connection between disease and climate change

By Tim Sandle     Feb 18, 2015 in Environment
Lincoln - Infectious diseases occurring in unexpected locations, sometimes carried by new hosts, are seen by some scientists as products of climate change. Here humans, crops, wildlife and livestock come into contact with new pathogens.
Several different scientific studies have drawn different conclusions about the impact of climate change on diseases and microorganisms. For instance, researchers looking at the impact of climate change have begun to study the ecosystems of the soil. This is by studying variations to the microbial composition over time.
With the new study, which is part research-based and part philosophical inquiry, scientists have shifted through 30 years of data. One thing that is apparent is the arrival of species to different regions around the planet that had not previously lived in that area, as well as the departure of other species. The scientists see this as a consequence of changing temperatures.
One example made is with lungworms, which have moved northward and shifted hosts from caribou to muskoxen in the Canadian Arctic. Lungworms are parasitic nematode worms. The primary risk is to dogs, where symptoms include coughing and wheezing and weight loss.
Such shifts, especially in the case of parasites that can cause human diseases, has implications for public policy and healthcare strategies.
One thing that the research does not address is whether many of the changes to disease spread are linked more to globalisation (the distribution of goods and services, and the migration of people) as a causative factor.
The new study was performed by researchers based at Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The speculative output has been made to the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B in a paper called “Review article: Evolution in action: climate change, biodiversity dynamics and emerging infectious disease.”
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