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The impact of climate change and other factors on zoonotic diseases

The impact of climate change and other factors on zoonotic diseases

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iMedPub Journals
 This article is available from: 
2011Vol. 2 No. 2:4
© Under License of Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
The impact of climate change and otherfactors on zoonotic diseases
Division of Medical Microbiology,Department of Pathology,Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Corresponding author:
Climate change, Zoonotic diseases,Zoonoses
Preneshni R. Naicker Abstract
Approximately 60% of emerging human pathogens are zoonoses. The complex na-ture of the human-animal interface is constantly inuenced by the eects of climatechange, anthropogenic and natural factors. Geoclimatic change most markedly af-fects zoonotic diseases transmitted by arthropod vectors. Travel, tourism and tradeare the major human factors impacting the epidemiology of zoonotic diseases. There-emergence of zoonotic diseases is also driven by pathogen adaptation and ani-mal migration. All these factors converge to make zoonotic diseases such as WestNile fever and Lyme disease of great public health concern in the developed world.However, the eects of climate change are predicted to be worse for the developingworld where challenging socioeconomic and political environments are exacerbatedby a lack of epidemiological studies on zoonotic diseases.
Climate change, Zoonotic diseases, Zoonoses
Interactions at the animal-human interface are increasinglyrecognized as the source for potential epidemics and the gen-eration of novel pathogens. It has been estimated that 60% of emerging human pathogens are zoonotic [1]. For the purposesof this review a zoonotic disease is dened as one that is trans-mitted from animals to humans, occurs naturally in animalsand is not well adapted to human to human transmission [2]. The World Health Organization denes an emerging zoono-sis as one that is “newly recognized or newly evolved, or thathas occurred previously but shows an increase in incidence orexpansion in geographical, host or vector range” [3]. The dis-tribution and incidence of zoonotic diseases relate, in part, totheir degree of climate sensitivity [4]. The contributing factorsleading to the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases aredue to pathogen, host and vector or ecological determinantsand in many scenarios a combination of the above factors. This article aims to review the current literature on the impactof climate change, human and natural factors on zoonotic dis-eases, with an emphasis on developing countries.
Global warming and climatechange
 The inuence of geoclimatic change on zoonotic disease epi-demiology is evident by changes in reservoir and vector dy-namics. Climatic variation creates new ecological niches forvectors hence altering temporal and spatial distribution of disease [5].
Land temperatures
Global temperatures are rising at an unprecedented rate andthis is mostly attributed to the anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases. Temperature increases of 0.2°C per decadehas been projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on ClimateChange with a predicted mean temperature rise ranging be-tween 1.8°C and 4°C by the end of the 21
century [6].Vector distribution and therefore disease risk is expected toincrease for vector-borne zoonotic diseases. Arthropod vec-tors are the most sensitive to climatic temperature variability.Mosquitoes, ticks and sandies are ectothermic and have lifecycles that are dependent on ambient temperatures. Diseasetransmission is likely to occur if there are changes at the ex-
iMedPub Journals
 This article is available from: 
2011Vol. 2 No. 2:4
© Under License of Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
tremes of temperature (14-18°C at the lower end and 35-40°Cat the upper end). Vector densities are expected to be theirgreatest at 30-32°C [7]. Temperature has a direct eect on mosquitoes. It leads toincreased activity, increased reproduction and therefore in-creased frequency of blood meals and faster digestion of blood [8]. Pathogens harboured by mosquitoes also maturefaster. Increased water temperature cause mosquito larvae todevelop faster also increasing overall vector capacity [9]. Thedensity of the competent vector
 Aedes albopictus
in Italy con-tributed to the rst outbreak of Chikungunya infection in atemperate climate [10].Warmer climates allow ticks to survive at higher latitudes andaltitudes. Brownstein et al used a climate suitability model, andfound potential expansion of tick populations causing Lymedisease [11]. Higher temperatures increase the developmentalrate of ticks and the over-winter survival rate is also increased.However it has been postulated that earlier arrival of springmay not necessarily be advantageous to ticks as vertebratenumbers at that time may still be low. Humans however, maybe at higher risk for tick bites, as ticks will bite earlier and forlonger periods [12]. The eect of global warming can also be seen in leishmani-asis transmission with sandies as vectors. Sandies are moreactive at higher temperatures and take more frequent blood-meals, which in turn increases transmission. Increased temper-atures also increase the development of leishmania parasites[13]. The vectors spread into neighbouring regions as shownby the potential spread of leishmaniasis in North America dueto vector distribution and expansion [14].Rodents are the main reservoir in hantavirus infections. Withwarmer climates and decreasing snowfall, the protective en-vironment provided by snow is removed and rodents seek shelter within human habitats, increasing transmission of han-tavirus, as seen in Scandinavia [15].
Ocean temperatures, sea leveland acidity 
As a consequence of rising sea temperatures, melting of polarice caps and glaciers, increase in sea levels is also of concern.Rising sea levels will lead to coastal ooding and risks for wa-ter-borne zoonoses. Carbon uptake by the oceans leads to adecrease in pH and marine ecosystems are being threatened[6].
Rainfall patterns
 The eect of precipitation on vectors is indirect. Increasedprecipitation creates more potential breeding sites for mosqui-toes. The vegetation is dense after rainfalls and this providesshelter and resting grounds for vectors [7].Outbreaks of Rift Valley fever (RVF) are associated with peri-ods following heavy rainfall.
are the most importantmosquito vectors and they have a transovarial transmission of virus. They are oodwater breeders and eggs are depositedduring heavy rains. These eggs remain viable even during pe-riods of droughts and hatch when conditions are favourableagain. Heavy rainfall and larval development creates increasedvector capacity and outbreaks occur if vertebrate reservoirs areavailable.
can then serve as second-ary vectors for propagation of the outbreak. Inter-epizootic pe-riods can last for 5-35 years [8]. Heavy rainfalls are predictedfor East Africa and therefore more RVF outbreaks. RVF in WestAfrica will be less aected by climate change and disease emer-gence may be due to decreasing herd immunity [16].In general, increased rainfall leads to more crops and food,which may increase rodent populations and rodent-bornezoonoses. Flooding increases the risk of water-borne zoono-ses. Heavy rains upstream to water treatment plants may havecontributed to the cryptosporidium outbreak in Milwaukee,USA [17].Chikungunya and West Nile outbreaks may be associated withheavy rainfalls and even with periods of drought. Droughts de-crease the mosquito predators, increasing vector abundancepost-drought, and the concentration of reservoir hosts aroundwatering holes facilitates ease of disease transmission [18].
Other extreme weather events
 The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle is a global climaticphenomenon consisting of hot and warm phases and contrib-uting to increased extreme weather events [19]. The ENSO hascontributed to heavy rainfalls and Rift Valley fever outbreaks inEast Africa [20]. ENSO and global warming is also expected toinuence fascioliasis in the Andes [21]. However, the impact of global warming on the ENSO is as yet unknown [22].
Soil conditions
Soil moisture is a factor in the developmental stages of ticks,with mortality related to dry conditions and soil evapora-tion. However, hyalomma ticks, the vector for Crimean-Congohaemorrhagic fever, are more adapted to surviving in dry con-ditions than other ticks [12].Soil composition determines the distribution of 
Bacillus an-thracis
spores. Optimal soil factors include humus rich, highcalcium and alkaline (pH>6.1) conditions for spore survival [23]. The occurrence of disease also requires susceptible vertebratehosts and human factors.
iMedPub Journals
 This article is available from: 
2011Vol. 2 No. 2:4
© Under License of Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
Human factors
 There are various anthropogenic factors leading to the emer-gence, persistence and spread of zoonotic diseases.
Travel and tourism
 The ease of transmission of emerging pathogens is facilitatedby intercontinental travel. Ecient air and land travel linksmake disease containment dicult as illustrated by the SARS-coronavirus outbreak [24]. Tourism to more exotic locations and eco-adventure travel isgaining popularity. Volunteer work is also common in Africaand Asia. This exposes non-immune travelers to endemic dis-eases. Adventure sports expose athletes to “recreational zoo-noses”. Water sports e.g. canoeing, kayaking, river rafting hasbeen related to leptospirosis outbreaks as animals shed theorganism in their urine [25].
Globalization has seen goods transported via air, rail, sea andland to virtually any destination on the planet. The trade in usedtyres provided the breeding ground for mosquitoes adaptedto urban environments and small-container breeding (
Aedes albopictus
). This allowed the rapid invasionof the Asian tiger mosquito and thus a shift from the historicalsylvatic transmission of chikungunya to cause widespread hu-man epidemics [20].Live animal markets in Asia bring multiple exotic species inclose contact creating a melting pot for inter-species diseasetransmission. In the case of the SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV)outbreak in Guangdong Province, civet cats were found to har-bour coronaviruses with 99% similarity to the outbreak strain[26]. Although they are not the natural reservoirs, civet catsplayed a role in transmission to humans which originated inthese trading markets.
Zoonotic transmission of diseases harboured by companionanimals is relating to the close contact with their owners. Hu-man salmonellosis is associated with keeping exotic reptilepets. Petting zoos are popular in urban areas and animal con-tact has lead to
Escherichia coli 
O157:H7 outbreaks [27]. The recent emergence of zoonotic leishmaniasis in Europe ispartly due to the domestic dog being the major reservoir host.
Leishmania infantum
causes cutaneous and visceral leishmani-asis in the Mediterranean region and may spread due to traveland importation of infected dogs [13].Domestic cats are the main reservoir for
spp. Dis-eases including Cat scratch disease, bacillary angiomatosis andpeliosis are therefore likely to persist and even increase as thereservoirs are unlikely to be eliminated [28].
 Agricultural practices and Livestock farming
 The human population explosion creates increased demandfor food and increased land use for agriculture and livestock farming which disrupts natural ecosystems.Dams and canals built for agricultural practices are potentiallynew breeding sites for mosquito vectors.Large scale animal husbandry is rising to compensate for con-sumer demand. The large numbers of animals or multiple spe-cies being farmed together facilitate infection across speciesbarriers [1]. Farming animals allows new pathogens to increasetheir numbers exponentially. This ‘high intensity’ farming al-lows pathogens e.g.
O157:H7 strains that may occur insmall numbers to spread rapidly.Domestic animals themselves are reservoirs of zoonotic diseas-es. Voss et al described one of the rst cases of pig-farming re-lated methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aureus
(MRSA) in theNetherlands [29]. These porcine ST398 strains are non-type-able by conventional methods and are spreading throughoutEurope. Farming is now considered a risk factor for Livestock-associated MRSA (LaMRSA).Antibiotics used in livestock farming to improve growth andtreat infection apply selective pressure leading to the emer-gence of antimicrobial resistant strains in livestock and poultryas will be discussed below [30]. 
Food-borne zoonotic pathogens are increasing due to largescale food production, food processing and distribution. En-terohaemorrhagic
E. Coli 
O157:H7 outbreaks are associatedwith undercooked meat [30]. The emergence of ouroquino-lone-resistant
was associated with antibi-otic addition to chicken feed [31]. Multi-drug resistant strainsof 
. Typhimurium DT104 and
. Newport) arealso emerging [32,33].
Deforestation and Urban expansion
 The loss of biodiversity due to deforestation has an impact onthe transmission of zoonotic diseases by the “dilution eect”.It is reasoned that in areas of high biodiversity, more speciessustain vectors and the disease is diluted. If there are fewerspecies, the burden of disease is higher [34]. Wolfe et al de-scribes how clear-cut logging doesn’t increase the zoonosesrisk, but selective logging may do so as the forest biodiversityis maintained [35].

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