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Snail fever expected to decline in Africa due to climate change
Date:12/12/2013

The dangerous parasite Schistosoma mansoni that causes snail fever in humans could become significantly less common in the future a new international study led by researchers from the University of Copenhagen predicts. The results are surprising because they contradict the general assumption that climate change leads to greater geographical spread of diseases. The explanation is that the parasite's host snails stand to lose suitable habitat due to climate change.

"Our research shows that the expected effects of climate change will lead to a reduction in suitable habitats for four out of five species of host snails for the parasite. According to our models, several areas will become too hot for the snails in the future and new precipitation patterns will affect the freshwater areas where they live", says postdoc Anna -Sofie Stensgaard from the Danish National Research Foundation Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen.

Schistosomiasis is an infectious disease caused by parasitic flatworms of the genus Schistosoma.They infect humans by penetrating the skin when in contact with water. They spread in freshwater areas such as rivers and lakes where fresh water snails act as intermediate host for the parasite's larvae.

Therefore, the snails' habitats are of great importance for the spread of the disease.

Up to 19 % reduction in infectious areas

The researchers modeled the changes in snail habitat from today to 2080 under various climate change scenarios, and what that will mean for the spread of the parasite. The forecasts show up to 19 % reduction in the total geographical area of infection risk in Africa, as the geographical distribution of the main host snail will be reduced significantly.

"Our results are consistent with the scientific view that climate change leads to lower biodiversity, but not that climate change necessarily leads to a greater spre
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Contact: Post doc Anna-Sofie Stensgaard
asstensgaard@snm.ku.dk
452-629-7650
University of Copenhagen
Source:Eurekalert

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