Climate change could increase the risk of new infectious diseases

Climate change will cause thousands of new viruses to spread among animals by 2070, likely raising the risk of animal-to-human infectious diseases, according to a new study.

This is especially true in Africa and Asia, continents that have been hotbeds for the spread of deadly diseases from humans to animals or vice versa over the past few decades, including influenza, HIV, Ebola and the coronavirus.

The researchers, who published their findings Thursday in the journal Nature, used the model to study how more than 3,000 species of mammals could migrate and share viruses over the next 50 years if the world warmed by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). show is possible.

They found that interspecies spread of the virus occurs more than 4,000 times in mammals alone. The study did not include birds and marine animals.

The researchers said that not all viruses spread to humans or become pandemics on the scale of the coronavirus, but the number of cross-species viruses increases the risk of human spread.

The study highlights two global crises – climate change and the spread of infectious diseases – as the world tries to decide what to do about both.

Previous research has looked at how deforestation and extinction, as well as the wildlife trade, lead to the spread of disease among animals, but there is less research on how climate change could affect the transmission of this type of disease, the researchers said at a media briefing on Wednesday.

“We don’t talk much about climate in the context of zoonoses — diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans,” said study co-author Colin Carlson, assistant professor of biology at Georgetown University. “Our research… put together the two most acute global crises we have.”

Experts on climate change and infectious diseases have agreed that a warmer planet is likely to lead to an increased risk of new viruses.

Daniel R. Brooks, a biologist at the University of Nebraska State Museum and co-author of The Stockholm Paradigm: Climate Change and Emerging Diseases, said the study recognizes the threat posed by climate change in terms of increasing the risk of infectious diseases. .

“This particular contribution is an extremely conservative estimate of the potential spread of new infectious diseases caused by climate change,” Brooks said.

Aaron Bernstein, pediatrician and Acting Director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard Johnston School of Public Health. T. H. Chana, said the study confirms long-standing suspicions about the impact of warming on the occurrence of infectious diseases.

“Of particular note, the study shows that these encounters can already occur with greater frequency and in places where there are many people,” Bernstein said.

Study co-author Gregory Albury, a disease ecologist at Georgetown University, said that since the emergence of climate-driven infectious diseases is likely already happening, the world needs to do more to learn about and prepare for them.

“It’s impossible to prevent even in the best climate change scenarios,” Albury said.

Carlson, who also authored the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said we must cut greenhouse gas emissions and phase out fossil fuels to reduce the risk of the spread of infectious diseases.

Jaron Brown, organizing director of the climate justice group Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, said the study highlights climate injustices faced by people living in African and Asian countries.

“African and Asian countries are facing the greatest threat of increased exposure to the virus, further evidence that those on the front lines of the crisis are very often doing the least for climate change,” Brown said.

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