"There has been quite a bit of a 'the sky is falling' attitude from people claiming that infectious diseases are only going to get worse," Hechinger said. "We can't forget that most infectious diseases are caused by living agents. Like most living things, these agents may be negatively or positively affected by climate change. The modeling in this paper clarifies that infectious diseases may increase or decrease under climate change, specifically under global warming."
In addition, Hechinger said, the Princeton technique applies to any parasites that venture outside of a warm-blooded host, including organisms that plague humans, such as Plasmodium, the microorganism that causes malaria.
"If the parasites have stages when they are loose in the environment, they will be impacted by temperature. This goes for parasites with developmental stages in cold-blooded hosts because those hosts are affected by environmental temperatures," Hechinger said.
"So, the modeling framework can work for human malarias because there are parasite stages in cold-blooded mosquitos, or human schistosomiasis [most common in children in developing countries], where the parasite has stages in cold-blooded snails and free-living stages in the open environment," he said.
The Princeton model could potentially appertain to those disease carriers as well, Molnr said. The framework could predict the future ranges of cold-blooded animals for use in combating invasive species, or even in the conservation of such animals as reptiles and amphibians, he said.
Molnr worked with senior researcher Andrew Dobson, Princeton professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, as well as with second author Susan Kutz, an associate professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Calgary, and Bryanne Hoar, a graduate student in the Kutz lab.
|Contact: Morgan Kelly|