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March of the pathogens: Parasite metabolism can foretell disease ranges under climate change
Date:2/25/2013

her enough data to develop a separate climate-change model for each existing and emerging disease in humans, wildlife and livestock," Molnr said. "With our physiological approach, many of the parameters for a specific pathogen can be predicted based on what is known about metabolic processes in all parasites, so that the model remains applicable to new and less-studied species as well."

The Princeton model estimates the "fundamental thermal niche" of a parasite, the area between the lowest and highest temperature in which a specific parasite prospers. The researchers show that an organism already kicking around the high end of that range could die out when things heat up, while a parasite lingering at the low end could lead to novel epidemics in host populations and extend to new areas.

Because global temperatures will still differ by elevation and distance from the equator, some parasites also might "migrate" from their previous territory rendered inhospitable by higher temperatures to one more inviting. That could expose human and animal populations to new diseases to which they may have little natural resistance. Thus, having an idea of which areas a parasite might transition to is important, Molnr said.

"As metabolism varies with temperature, parasite life-cycle components such as mortality, development, reproduction or infectivity may also vary with temperature," Molnr said. "If, for a specific parasite, we know the temperature dependence of its metabolism, or the temperature dependence of its life-cycle components, our model allows using these temperature effects to evaluate the impact of climate change on parasite fitness, and thus the regions in which the parasite may occur in the future."

Ryan Hechinger, a biologist at the University of California-Santa Barbara, said the framework adds to recent research tempering the fear that infectious diseases will uniformly flourish as global temperatures rise. Hechinger, who f
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Contact: Morgan Kelly
mgnkelly@princeton.edu
609-258-5729
Princeton University
Source:Eurekalert  

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