what impact will climate change have on the spread of this disease?

There may be fewer mosquito-friendly breeding sites in Africa in the future, according to new research. Photo by Егор Камелев on Unsplash
Kerry Taylor Smith Meteored United Kingdom 05/18/2024 2:00 p.m. 6 mins

Determining how water flows across the continent and what the effects of actual processes of evaporation, infiltration and river flow are has helped researchers create an in-depth picture conditions conducive to malaria in Africa.

The new study used climate and hydrological models to show the role of water in the spread of malaria and how hot, dry conditions caused by climate change will reduce the number of areas suitable for transmission from 2025. This could lead to more targeted interventions to control the disease in Africa, where 95% of the world’s cases occur.

Water matters

Malaria is a climate-sensitive disease. Previous studies have focused on precipitation totals to imply the presence of surface waters suitable for mosquito breeding. But the new study looked at water across the African continent to create an in-depth picture of conditions beneficial to malaria.

This will give us a more physically realistic estimate of where in Africa the malaria situation will improve or worsen.“, says Dr Mark Smith, Associate Professor of Water Research at the University of Leeds.

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The results highlighted the role of waterways like the Zambezi River in the spread of the disease and found that the estimated population living in these areas for up to nine months a year was four times higher than previously thought.

“And as more and more detailed estimates of water flows become available, we can use this understanding to guide the prioritization and adaptation of malaria interventions in a more targeted and informed manner“, adds Smith. “It’s really helpful given the scarce health resources often available.”

moving water

These last years, the decline in malaria cases has slowed or even reversed, in part due to stagnating investment in global responses to combat malaria. Researchers predict that hot, dry conditions fueled by climate change will lead to an overall decrease in areas suitable for malaria transmission, but that these changes will be more sensitive to greenhouse gas emissions than previously thought.

“The key advance is that these models take into account the fact that not all water stays where it rains, meaning that breeding conditions suitable for malaria mosquitoes may also be more widespread – particularly along from large floodplains to rivers in arid and savannah regions typical of many parts of the world,” says Professor Chris Thomas of the University of Lincoln. “ What’s surprising about the new modeling is how sensitive season length is to climate change – this can have dramatic effects on the amount of disease transmitted. »

Four times more people live along the Zambezi River than previously estimated. Photo by Sean Peter on Unsplash
Four times more people live along the Zambezi River than previously estimated. Photo by Sean Peter on Unsplash

“Our study highlights the complex way in which surface water flows modify the risk of malaria transmission across Africa, made possible by a major research program led by the global hydrological modeling community to compile and make available estimates of the impacts of climate change on water flows across Africa,” adds Simon Gosling, professor of climate risks and environmental modeling at the University of Nottingham. ” Even While an overall reduction in future malaria risk may seem like good news, it comes at the price of reduced water availability and a higher risk of another important disease, dengue. »

The researchers hope that further developments in their modeling will yield even finer details of water body dynamics, which could help inform national malaria control strategies.. “We’re soon getting to the point where we’re using globally available data to not only determine where possible habitats are, but also which mosquito species are likely to breed where, which would allow people to actually target their interventions against these insects,” concludes Smith.

News reference

Mark W. Smith et al. Future environmental suitability for malaria in Africa is sensitive to hydrologyScience



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