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Climate Change Spreads “Deadly Dozen” Diseases

Posted by feww on October 8, 2008

12 deadly pathogens could spread into new regions aided by climate change

A report by Wildlife Conservation Society released on October 7 lists 12 deadly pathogens that could spread globally as a result of climate change. “All have potential impacts to both human and wildlife health as well as global economies.” Report said.

Titled ‘The Deadly Dozen: Wildlife Diseases in the Age of Climate Change,’ the report illustrates examples of diseases that could spread due to temperatures changes and variations in regional precipitation levels.

Gram-positive Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Bacteria

Under a high magnification of 15549x, this colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicted some of the ultrastructural details seen in the cell wall configuration of a number of Gram-positive Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. As an obligate aerobic organism M. tuberculosis can only survive in an environment containing oxygen.

TB bacteria become active, and begin to multiply, if the immune system can’t stop them from growing. The bacteria attack the body and destroy tissue. If in the lungs, the bacteria can actually create a hole in the lung tissue. Some people develop active TB disease soon after becoming infected, before their immune system can fight off the bacteria. Other people may get sick later, when their immune system becomes weak for another reason.

Babies and young children often have weak immune systems. People infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, have very weak immune systems. Other people can have weak immune systems, too, especially people with any of these conditions: substance abuse; diabetes mellitus; silicosis; cancer of the head or neck; leukemia or Hodgkin’s disease; severe kidney disease; low body weight; certain medical treatments (such as corticosteroid treatment or organ transplants); specialized treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, or Crohn’s disease. [Source: CDC – Caption: CDC/ Dr. Ray Butler; Janice Carr. Photo Credit: Janice Carr]

“The term ‘climate change’ conjures images of melting ice caps and rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities and nations, but just as important is how increasing temperatures and fluctuating precipitation levels will change the distribution of dangerous pathogens,” said Dr. Steven E. Sanderson, WCS President and CEO. “The health of wild animals is tightly linked to the ecosystems in which they live and influenced by the environment surrounding them, and even minor disturbances can have far-reaching consequences on what diseases they might encounter and transmit as climate changes. Monitoring wildlife health will help us predict where those trouble spots will occur and plan how to prepare.”

The “Deadly Dozen” list [ABC order]:

  1. Avian influenza
  2. Babesia
  3. Cholera
  4. Ebola
  5. Intestinal and external parasites
  6. Lyme disease
  7. Plague
  8. Red tides
  9. Rift Valley fever
  10. Sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis)
  11. Tuberculosis
  12. Yellow fever

    This micrograph of human liver tissue infected with the Ebola virus, the cause of Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF), depicts the hepatic histopathologic changes that occur due to this illness.

    The Ebola pathogen is a member of the Filoviridae family of RNA viruses. The exact origin, locations, and natural habitat (known as the “natural reservoir”) of Ebola virus remain unknown. However, on the basis of available evidence and the nature of similar viruses, researchers believe that the virus is zoonotic i.e., animal-borne, and is normally maintained in an animal host that is native to the African continent. A similar host is probably associated with Ebola-Reston which was isolated from infected cynomolgous monkeys that were imported to the United States and Italy from the Philippines. The virus is not known to be native to other continents, such as North America.

    Source: CDC. Caption and photo credit: CDC/ Dr. Lyle Conrad]

    The report “builds upon the recommendations included in a recently published paper titled ‘Wildlife Health as an Indicator of Climate Change,'” which is featured in a new book, Global Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events: Understanding the Contributions to Infectious Disease Emergence, which was published by the National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine. The study examines the the impacts of climate change on wild animals and its implications for human health.

    Related Links:


    11 Responses to “Climate Change Spreads “Deadly Dozen” Diseases”

    1. CG said

      I like reading through a post that will make people think.
      Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!

    2. has said

      [Thanks! Will do. Moderator]

    3. […] Climate Change Spreads “Deadly Dozen” Diseases ( October 8, 2008 ) […]

    4. […] Climate Change Spreads “Deadly Dozen” Diseases ( October 8, 2008 ) […]

    5. […] Climate Change Spreads “Deadly Dozen” Diseases ( October 8, 2008 ) […]

    6. feww said

      University of Chicago Press Journals

      Study: Climate change one factor in malaria spread

      Climate change is one reason malaria is on the rise in some parts of the world, new research finds, but other factors such as migration and land-use changes are likely also at play. The research, published in The Quarterly Review of Biology, aims to sort out contradictions that have emerged as scientists try to understand why malaria has been spreading into highland areas of East Africa, Indonesia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

      “We assessed … conclusions from both sides and found that evidence for a role of climate in the dynamics is robust,” write study authors Luis Fernando Chaves from Emory University and Constantianus Koenraadt of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. “However, we also argue that over-emphasizing a role for climate is misleading for setting a research agenda, even one which attempts to understand climate change impacts on emerging malaria patterns.”

      Malaria, a parasitic disease spread to humans by mosquitoes, is common in warm climates of Africa, South America and South Asia. The development and survival, both of the mosquito and the malaria parasite are highly sensitive to daily and seasonal temperature patterns and the disease has traditionally been rare in the cooler highland areas. Over the last 40 years, however, the disease has been spreading to the highlands, and many studies link the spread to global warming. But that conclusion is far from unanimous. Other studies have found no evidence of warming in highland regions, thus ruling out climate change as a driver for highland malaria.

      Chaves and Koenraadt re-examined more than 70 of these studies. They found that the studies ruling out a role for climate change in highland malaria often use inappropriate statistical tools, casting doubt on their conclusions.

      For example, an oft-cited 2002 study of the Kericho highlands of western Kenya found no warming trend in the area. But when Chaves and Koenraadt ran the same temperature data from that study through three additional statistical tests, each test indicated a significant warming trend. Similar statistical errors plague other comparable studies, the researchers say.

      In contrast, most studies concluding that climate change is indeed playing a role in highland malaria tend to be statistically strong, Chaves and Koenraadt found. But just because climate is one factor influencing malaria’s spread does not mean it is the only one. What is needed, the researchers say, is a research approach that combines climate with other possible factors.

      “Even if trends in temperature are very small, organisms can amplify such small changes and that could cause an increase parasite transmission,” Chaves said. “More biological data will improve our overall understanding of malaria and will allow scientists to propose more general and accurate models on the impacts of climate change on malaria transmission.”

      The authors cite numerous factors that could interact with climate to influence malaria spread. They point to research showing that people migrating from lowlands may be introducing the malaria parasite into highland regions. Changes in farming practices may also play a role. Irrigation associated with more intensive farming may be creating more places for mosquitoes to breed. Another example comes from two studies that linked malaria increases in the Bure highlands of Ethiopia to increased maize farming. There, the immature and aquatic stages of mosquitoes thrive on a diet of maize pollen, and more mosquitoes can mean more malaria.

      “A major future challenge will be to link up what happens with mosquitoes and parasites at the household level with long-term climate change scenarios at the continental scale,” Koenraadt said.

      The spread of malaria in highlands is of great concern to those who work to contain the disease. But understanding the many factors that influence the spread of highland malaria could help with efforts to control the disease worldwide, Chaves and Koenraadt conclude.

      “In the light of global efforts towards malaria elimination, highland areas will be interesting starting points from where control efforts could interrupt transmission and aid in shrinking the world’s malaria map.” Koenraadt said.


      More information about global efforts to control malaria can be found at Discussions on malaria elimination can be found at

      Luis Fernando Chaves and Constantianus J M Koenraadt, “Climate change and highland malaria: Fresh air for a hot debate.” The Quarterly Review of Biology 85:1 (March 2010).

      The premier review journal in biology since 1926, The Quarterly Review of Biology publishes articles in all areas of biology but with a traditional emphasis on evolution, ecology, and organismal biology. QRB is published by the University of Chicago Press.

      Contact: Kevin Stacey

    7. feww said

      You are perfectly entitled to use the image, which is in public domain. However, please credit author and original source for each image as follows:

      “Source: CDC – Caption: CDC/ Dr. Ray Butler; Janice Carr. Photo Credit: Janice Carr”
      “Source: CDC. Caption and photo credit: CDC / Dr. Lyle Conrad”

      Good luck with your thesis!

    8. nadia said

      please may i use the image of tuberculosis bacteria in my master’s thesis

    9. feww said

      Arctic thaw may slow crackdown on toxic chemicals
      Mon May 4, 2009
      By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

      OSLO (Reuters) – A thaw of the Arctic linked to global warming may slow a drive to get rid of industrial chemicals that are harming indigenous people and wildlife, an expert said on Monday.

      About 150 nations are meeting in Geneva this week to consider adding nine chemicals, including pesticides and flame retardants, to a “Dirty Dozen” banned by a 2001 U.N. pact partly inspired by worries about the fragile Arctic environment.

      But an Arctic melt may be complicating the clean-up even though levels of some of the “dirty dozen” chemicals are falling in the region, said Lars-Otto Reiersen, Executive Secretary of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP).

      “There’s some good news and some bad news,” he told Reuters.

      The shrinking of summer sea ice may allow some of the dirty dozen persistent organic pollutants (POPs), long trapped under sea ice, to evaporate into the atmosphere and so spread further around the polar region, he said.

      “Climate change may … delay the impact in the environment of policy actions against POPs,” according to an AMAP report due to be presented in Geneva on Tuesday. Arctic sea ice shrank in September 2007 to the smallest since satellite records began.

      And some chemicals trapped in glaciers or permafrost may get washed out by a melt, blamed by the U.N. Climate Panel mainly on greenhouse gases released by burning fossil fuels.


      Lightning may trigger more fires because global warming is likely to make some forests drier. That could release PCBs, one of the dirty dozen industrial chemicals used in paints or electric transformers, trapped in forest soils.

      Among dirty dozen chemicals in decline in recent years were the pesticide DDT and PCBs, but levels of newer chemicals such as brominated flame retardants were rising.

      The 12 have been linked to cancers, birth defects and brain damage. The Arctic is vulnerable to POPs, swept north by prevailing winds or currents from Europe, North America and Asia, partly because the chemicals lodge in fatty tissues.

      High levels of POPs have been found in the breast milk of Inuit women. And animals such as whales, seals or polar bears depend on an extremely fat-rich diet to help them stay warm.

      Reiersen said levels of man-made chemicals in the Arctic were still high enough to damage people and animals. Oslo-based AMAP is run by the eight nations with Arctic territory.

      Among good news, POPs levels were falling in the blood of some Arctic peoples. But that was mostly because of a change in diets toward food bought in shops, away from traditional hunts.

      Chemicals on the rise in the Arctic include brominated flame retardants, used in products such as mattresses or computers, some pesticides and PFOs, found in goods ranging from electrical equipment to fire-fighting foams, Reiersen said.

      “Some are under discussion in Geneva and some are not,” he said, adding that some flame retardants and PFOs might be banned. Among those not on the list were the pesticide endosulfan, which AMAP says partly meets criteria as a POP.

      © Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

    10. qdreumzr said

      [Indecipherable comment! Edited and links removed:FEWW]

    11. […] A report by Wildlife Conservation Society released on October 7 lists 12 deadly pathogens that could spread globally as a result of climate change affecting the wildlife which could then spread to humans. (Source) […]

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