GAINESVILLE, Fla. Contrary to a widespread assumption, global warming is unlikely to expand the range of malaria because of malaria control, development and other factors that are at work to corral the disease.
So concludes a team of scientists including two University of Florida researchers in a paper set to appear May 20 in the journal Nature.
Scientists and public policy makers have been concerned that warming temperatures would create conditions that would either push malaria into new areas or make it worse in existing ones. But the team of six scientists, including David Smith and Andy Tatem, faculty members with UF's biology and geography departments and both at UF's Emerging Pathogens Institute, analyzed a historical contraction of the geographic range and general reduction in the intensity of malaria a contraction that occurred over a century during which the globe warmed. They determined that if the future trends are like past ones, the contraction is likely to continue under the most likely warming scenarios.
"If we continue to fund malaria control, we can certainly be prepared to counteract the risk that warming could expand the global distribution of malaria," Smith said.
The team, part of the Wellcome Trust's multinational Malaria Atlas Project, noted that malaria control efforts over the past century have shrunk the prevalence of the disease from most of the world to a region including Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and South America, with the bulk of fatalities confined to Africa. This has occurred despite a global temperature rise of about 1 degree Fahrenheit, on average, during the same period.
"The globe warmed over the past century, but the range of malaria contracted substantially," Tatem said. "Warming isn't the only factor that affects malaria."
The reasons why malaria has shrunk are varied and in some countries mysterious, but they usually include mosquito control efforts, b
|Contact: David Smith|
University of Florida