A team of Stanford researchers modeled the impacts of climate change on mosquito-borne diseases. Their analysis could help predict the diseases’ spread.
Climate change has caused temperatures to rise across the world, extending the normal summer season of mosquitoes. This extension, coupled with higher temperatures, increases the transmission of mosquito-transferred diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika.
“Dengue epidemics have been on the rise in the past couple decades, so there’s been a growing effort trying to understand why we’re seeing more dengue and what the relationship is between dengue transmission and climate,” said Erin Mordecai, assistant professor of biology and lead author of the scientists’ paper, to Stanford News.
The researchers examined the ways in which escalating temperatures can influence the time it takes for mosquitoes to ingest a virus, the length of the bugs’ life cycles and the frequency of mosquitos’ bites.
Researchers found that a temperature of 29 degrees Celsius allows for the highest rate transmission of viruses through mosquitoes, with the rate decreasing in both hotter and cooler weather. According to Mordecai, diseases may actually decrease with future warming in areas where temperatures are already close to optimum for virus spread.
This exact measurement can be used to predict and aid in preventing future outbreaks of mosquito-transmitted viruses. Mordecai said such predictions will be especially useful in urban areas; urban populations are often the epicenters of vector-borne disease because they have more water sources for mosquitoes to breed in. While the researchers say more research is needed, they hope that their findings can allow populations time to prepare for possible disease strikes.
“We really want to build more predictive models that take climate information and make predictions about when and where we can invest in vector control to try to prevent epidemics,” Mordecai said.
Contact Arielle Rodriguez at arielle3 ‘at’ stanford.edu.