APR 01, 2019 01:22 PM PDT

Disease-carrying mosquitoes are expanding their range

The World Health Organization names mosquitoes as one of the deadliest animals in the world because of the diseases they carry that kill millions every year. New research published in the open access journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases highlights the ever-growing concern of mosquitos as vectors of disease. The study looked at monthly global temperature changes and determined that by the end of the century, up to one billion people could be newly exposed to disease-carrying mosquitos as a result of climate change.

Mosquitoes carry diseases like dengue, Zika, and chikungunya. Photo: Pixabay

"Climate change is the largest and most comprehensive threat to global health security," says global change biologist Colin J. Carlson, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Georgetown University's biology department, and co-lead author of the new study. "Mosquitoes are only a part of the challenge, but after the Zika outbreak in Brazil in 2015, we're especially worried about what comes next."

To figure out what might come next, Carlson and co-lead Sadie J. Ryan of the University of Florida analyzed temperatures on a monthly basis in order to model predicted risk through 2080. They looked particularly at Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, the two most common disease-carrying mosquitoes which carry dengue, chikungunya, and Zika, amongst others. They wanted to see how public health might be threatened if these species were to alter their habitat range. And by alter, I mean widen, because climate change will likely expose the majority of human-inhabited lands to mosquitoes within the next 50 years. The tropics will be hit the hardest, with temperatures being at the right level to promote year-round transmissions. But the scientists stress not only the tropics will be affected.

"These diseases, which we think of as strictly tropical, have been showing up already in areas with suitable climates, such as Florida, because humans are very good at moving both bugs and their pathogens around the globe," explains Ryan. "The risk of disease transmission is a serious problem, even over the next few decades," Carlson says. "Places like Europe, North America, and high elevations in the tropics that used to be too cold for the viruses will face new diseases like dengue."

The researchers hope to continue their investigations in order to come to more clarity regarding the exposure risk and effects on certain regions and populations. "This is only one study to begin understanding the fast-approaching challenges we face with global warming," Carlson says. "We have a Herculean task ahead. We need to figure out pathogen by pathogen, region by region, when problems will emerge so that we can plan a global health response."

Sources: PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
NOV 14, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 14, 2019
This Mantis Uses Kung Fu Stances to Intimidate Predators
Virtually all mantids are known to science as carnivores, but perhaps unsurprisingly, some other creepy crawlies, such as jumping spiders, will also try to...
NOV 14, 2019
Earth & The Environment
NOV 14, 2019
"The Blob" is Back
Five years ago, a phenomenon dubbed “the blob” caused turmoil along the West Coast of the Pacific Ocean. No, it wasn’t an invader from sp...
NOV 14, 2019
Earth & The Environment
NOV 14, 2019
Massive Phytoplankton Bloom Resulted from Kilauea's Eruption
The 2018 eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano didn’t just change the lives of several hundred residents and the local landscape. It also had sh...
NOV 14, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 14, 2019
Many Birds Migrate at Night, and Now We May Know Why
A plethora of bird species prefer to migrate at night as opposed to during the day, and scientists have long wondered why this is the case. Fortunately, ne...
NOV 14, 2019
Earth & The Environment
NOV 14, 2019
The bigger picture of biomass energy conversion
While energy production from biomass has gained a fair amount of interest in the last years as a potential option of divesting from fossil fuels, it’...
NOV 14, 2019
Earth & The Environment
NOV 14, 2019
"Sea-thru" Algorithm Clarifies Underwater Photos
Have you ever tried to take photographs underwater, only to be sorely disappointed by the results? Pictures of vivid underwater scenery usually appear very...
Loading Comments...