Climate change and the risk of contracting diseases

Climate change has the potential to increase the risk of contracting infectious diseases. As temperatures rise and precipitation patterns change, favorable conditions can be created for the spread of certain pathogens.

A European study was recently carried out that investigated the presence of protozoa, bacteria and viruses that can be harmful to humans and domestic animals in birds and bats under different climatic conditions. A correlation was found between the prevalence of many of these pathogens and factors such as temperature or rainfall. This finding provides valuable information about how climate can influence the spread of diseases transmitted by these species.

A new study collected data on the presence of more than 75 pathogenic microbes in Europe. Almost 400 species of birds and 40 bats were analyzed to obtain this detailed information. When analyzing the information on the occurrence of pathogens, it was discovered that their appearance was closely related to climatic factors such as temperature and rainfall.

"In general, the occurrence of pathogenic bacteria increased in areas with a hot and dry climate. On the other hand, pathogenic viruses prefer humid weather.", according to lead author Yanjie Xu of the Finnish Museum of Natural History at the University of Helsinki.

Climatic and pathogenic factors

Research on the relationship between climatic factors and pathogens could be carried out in the 17 pathogen taxa with the greatest amount of data. The observed associations may vary depending on the case.

"Temperature was positively associated with the emergence of the avian influenza virus, the malaria parasite, and the bacteria that cause chlamydia, salmonella, Q fever, and typhus in birds and bats."explains university professor Arto Pulliainen from the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Turku.

Precipitation can influence both positively and negatively the appearance of pathogens. On the one hand, increased rainfall can increase the probability of the appearance of viruses such as Usutu, Sindbis and avian flu, as well as salmonella bacteria.

"Usutu and Sindbis viruses are vectored by mosquitoes, and rainfall can increase the appearance of wetlands favored by mosquitoes. Similarly, bird flu and salmonella are common, particularly in waterfowl, for whom wetlands are also important."says academy researcher Thomas Lilley of the Finnish Museum of Natural History.

The risk of contracting infectious diseases

A recent study has compiled the results of more than 700 research papers and almost half a million observations to examine the effect of climate change on the risk of infectious diseases. The findings reinforce the idea that climate change can have a significant impact in this regard, potentially altering the risk and spread of infectious diseases. Evidence shows that climate change is affecting the distribution of pathogens and wild animals, such as birds. Studies indicate that birds are shifting their ranges northward at a rate of more than a kilometer per year. This phenomenon is a direct consequence of the impact of climate change on our ecosystem.

Climate change has an impact on the appearance of pathogens in various environments, including bodies of water. This is because variations in temperatures and precipitation patterns can affect the ecological balance, allowing new pathogens to proliferate and spread more easily.

"There is a possibility that, for example, thermophilic pathogens may become more common in northern Europe as a cause of climate change.", reflects senior curator Aleksi Lehikoinen of the Finnish Museum of Natural History.

The study on climate change and the risk of contracting infectious diseases was published in Ecography, a recognized scientific journal in the field. Additionally, it was funded through a grant from the "Climate Change and Health" research program of the Academy of Finland. This program provided funding to a consortium made up of researchers from the University of Helsinki and the University of Turku.

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