Honolulu/San Francisco (dpa) – According to a study, climate change is increasing the spread of many pathogens. A team of researchers from the University of Hawaii concluded in a review that 58 percent of diseases caused by pathogens could be exacerbated by climate change.
This happens through warming itself, but also through extreme weather events such as droughts, floods or heat waves. The study in the journal Nature Climate Change was based on a list of 375 diseases worldwide caused by pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, plant pollen, or fungi.
In their literature research, the researchers found more than 1,000 individual pathways, each of which promotes the pathogen through climate change. For example, heat (160 individual diseases) or flooding (121) can lead to the spread of pathogens such as bacteria or mosquitoes, ticks and other disease vectors. Extreme weather can weaken the human immune system through stress or poor diet and increase susceptibility to infections.
Co-author Tristan Mackenzie of the University of Hawaii highlights vector-borne diseases (such as mosquitoes or ticks). “We found more than 100 diseases that were amplified by this route of transmission,” McKenzie said when asked.
Lothar Wheeler: “The return of malaria is possible”
The head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Lothar Wheeler, had previously called for consideration of exotic diseases in this country. “Climate change is leading to the expansion of mosquito and tick habitats in Germany,” Wheeler told Funk Media Group newspapers. “Many species of mosquitoes and ticks can transmit viral, bacterial, and parasitic pathogens,” Wheeler says. It could be Zika viruses or dengue fever, for example. “Return of malaria caused by Plasmodium is also possible.” Therefore, making the medical profession aware of these diseases is an important concern of RKI.
Rinke Loken, an ecologist at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, is also interested in this development. “In general, high temperatures and variable precipitation regimes increase the risk of pathogens transmitted by so-called vectors – such as mosquitoes or ticks. This is worrying because there are only a few approved vaccines for these pathogens,” says the expert, who was He did not participate in the article.
“In Germany and Europe, we are already noticing the impact of climate change-related events on pathogens,” Luken said. “Vector-borne pathogens also play a major role here.” “Exotic mosquito species such as the Asian tiger mosquito settle in large parts of Europe. The Asian tiger mosquito is particularly responsible for outbreaks of chikungunya virus and dengue virus in the Mediterranean region.”
Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced
The University of Hawaii research team sees the need for “rigorous measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” given the looming risks of disease from climate change.
Lühken shares this assessment. “The study impressively shows that many different transmission pathways have an impact on different pathogens,” says the expert. “This complexity makes social adjustment very difficult, so reducing greenhouse gas emissions must continue to be the most important countermeasure.”
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