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Climate Change Raises Mosquito-Borne Disease Risk

Students who are beneficiaries of the activities financed by UNICEF and developed together with their humanitarian partners. This photograph was taken as part of the coverage of recreational days for the prevention of Zika, during the development of the theater play "La Zancuda Patirrayas and the Zika Virus." Manta, Manabí, Ecuador. March 2, 2017. (Photo by UNICEF) Creative Commons License va Flickr

Students who are beneficiaries of the activities financed by UNICEF and developed together with their humanitarian partners. This photograph was taken as part of the coverage of recreational days for the prevention of Zika, during the development of the theater play “La Zancuda Patirrayas and the Zika Virus.” Manta, Manabí, Ecuador. March 2, 2017. (Photo by UNICEF) Creative Commons License va Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BATH, Somerset, United Kingdom, November 5, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Present-day climate change could result in the spread of deadly mosquito-borne diseases to new places or their return to areas where they have already been eradicated, scientists are warning, based on the largest-ever study of the mosquito evolutionary tree, going back 195 million years.

These diseases – such as malaria, Yellow fever, Zika virus, and Dengue fever – cause millions of deaths each year.

While many of these diseases have been eradicated from Europe and are under control in other parts of the world, resurgence is possible.

New research from British and Chinese scientists at the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, University of York  and China Agricultural University, shows that the rate at which new species of mosquitos evolve increases when levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are higher.

Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The global average atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2017 was 405 parts per million (ppm), with a range of uncertainty of plus or minus 0.1 ppm.

The scientists say this is concerning because the greater the number of mosquito species, the more potential exists for new ways of vectoring diseases, and perhaps for new variants of those diseases.

Professor Matthew Wills, from the University of Bath’s Milner Centre for Evolution, said, “It’s only the female mosquitos that take a blood meal, and they use the CO2 that mammals and other vertebrates exhale as a very general cue to locate their hosts.”

“One line of thinking is that as ambient levels of atmospheric CO2 rose, as they have done in recent decades, mosquitos may have found it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the CO2 from their hosts and those background levels,” Wills speculated.

“Vision, body heat and other smells might then have become more important in locating their blood meals, but many of these cues tend to be more specific to particular hosts,” said Wills. “As a general rule, we know that strong host specificity can be an important driver of speciation within parasites, and the same may be true in mosquitos.”

The Bath, York and China Agricultural research found that while there is a link between rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and mosquito diversification, the association is more complicated than previously thought. Other factors – such as the diversity of mammalian hosts – contribute to an increase in the species richness of mosquitos.

Dr. Katie Davis, from the University of York’s Department of Biology, said, “We found that the increase in the diversity of mammals led directly to a rise in the number of mosquito species, and also that there is a relationship between CO2 levels and the number of mammal species.”

“But there are still missing pieces of this puzzle, so we can still only speculate at this stage,” she said.

“It is important to look at the evolution of the mosquito against climate change because mosquitos are responsive to CO2 levels. Atmospheric CO2 levels are currently rising due to changes in the environment that are connected to human activity, so what does this mean for the mosquito and human health?

“Despite some uncertainties, we can now show that mosquito species are able to evolve and adapt to climate change in high numbers. With increased speciation, however, comes the added risk of disease increase and the return of certain diseases in countries that had eradicated them or never experienced them before.”

Chufei Tang, formerly at the Milner Centre for Evolution and now at the China Agricultural University, said, “The rising atmospheric CO2 has been proven to influence various kinds of organisms, but this is the first time such impact has been found on insects. This research provides yet another reason for people to participate in low-carbon lifestyles.”

More research is needed to understand what climate change means for the future of the mosquito, and this research is expected to contribute to further discussions about the value of mosquitos to the ecosystem and how to manage the diseases they carry.

The study, Tang et al (2018) “Elevated atmospheric CO2 promoted speciation in mosquitoes (Diptera, Culicidae)” is published in the journal “Communications Biology,” DOI: 10.1038/s42003-018-0191-7.

Featured Image: Mosquitos, Eldorado, Misiones Province, Argentina, 2012 (Photo by Oscar Fava) Public domain


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China & USA: Green Health Care Partners

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Yang Hongwei of the China National Health Development Research Center speaks at a forum on the Construction and Development Strategy of a Green Health Care System, March 23, 2016, Beijing, China (Photo courtesy China National Health Development Research Center) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

 SAN FRANCISCO, California, October 13, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A delegation from the Chinese health sector came to the Bay Area in September to identify strategies that can address the health effects of climate change and foster green, environmentally sustainable, climate-resilient health care in both China and the United States.

 The Chinese group was hosted by Health Care Without Harm, a U.S.-based international coalition of more than 250 organizations. Their collaborative campaign for environmentally responsible health care aims to transform health care worldwide so that it reduces its environmental footprint and becomes a community anchor for sustainability and a leader in the global movement for environmental health and justice.

Health Care Without Harm programs include: medical waste, toxic materials, safer chemicals, green building and energy, healthy food, pharmaceuticals, green purchasing, climate and health, transportation, and clean water.

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Hosted by Health Care Without Harm, a group of Chinese health experts hammers out strategies with their U.S. counterparts, San Francisco, California, September 2016 (Photo courtesy Health Care Without Harm) Posted for media use.

The visit was supported in part by the U.S. State Department’s People to People Exchange program.

 Around the table were the members of Chinese delegation headed by Yang Hongwei of the China National Health Development Research Center, and representatives from members of the U.S. Health Care Climate Council, including Dignity Health, Gundersen Health System, Kaiser Permanente, Partners Healthcare, and Virginia Mason.

In addition to meeting with the health system leaders, the Chinese delegation toured Bay Area hospitals to learn how U.S. health care systems are implementing sustainability strategies while working for better health outcomes.

This marks the beginning of a collaboration between health sectors in our two countries to make health care greener and more environmentally friendly, while protecting public health from climate change,” said Josh Karliner, international director of program and strategy for Health Care Without Harm.

 “The fact that the presidents of both countries have prioritized addressing climate change creates space for the health sectors in China and the United States to step up together to address one of the greatest health challenges of our time,” said Karliner.

He is referring to an event in November 2014, when President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping stood together in Beijing to make a historic U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change, emphasizing their personal commitment to a successful climate agreement in Paris and marking a new era of multilateral climate diplomacy as well as a new pillar in their bilateral relationship.

They are not alone. Many scientists and public health experts recognize that climate change will impact the health of billions of people around the world.

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan told a WHO Western Pacific regional meeting in Manila on Monday, “…health has some of the most compelling evidence-based arguments for interpreting climate change as a potential catastrophe. Simply stated, the Earth is losing its capacity to sustain human life in good health.

 “The challenge, of course, is to convince officials in energy, agriculture, transport, housing, and urban design to pay attention to the health consequences of their policies that affect the environment,” said Dr. Chan.

Health Care Without Harm warns that a crisis could arise over heat-related deaths, respiratory diseases, the spread of malaria, Zika virus and Dengue fever, water-borne diseases, or the prospect of millions more refugees.

Climate change is no longer an environmental problem in the distant future, says the health organization. It is now an immediate global health threat affecting everyone.

Historically, the United States has been the top emitter of greenhouse gases and has led the world in per capita emissions. Today, the U.S. is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China.

U.S. health care is responsible for nearly 10 percent of current emissions – or 655 million metric tons – the equivalent of the entire United Kingdom’s contribution to climate change. China faces similar problems.

Representing close to six percent of China’s economy and 18 percent of the U.S. economy, the health care sector can play a leading role in moving both societies toward a more sustainable, environmentally friendly future.

In China we have launched several research projects to identify a route map to greener health care buildings, operations and service delivery in our national system,” said Yang Hongwei, who serves as deputy director general of the National Health Development Research Center, a national research institution established in 1991.

After decades of development, the National Health Development Research Center has become an institution of scale with over 100 researchers and research fellows. It works as a national think-tank providing technical consultancy to health policy-makers.

Health Care Without Harm has been working with the National Health Development Research Center since late 2015. Since then the National Health Development Research Center has joined Health Care Without Harm’s Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network.

The Global Green and Healthy Hospitals community has 702 members in 39 countries who represent the interests of over 20,800 hospitals and health centers.

We are pleased to visit San Francisco, share our experiences, and learn from health systems here,” said Yang. “We look forward to more cooperation in the future.

In addition to identifying opportunities for health systems in both countries to grow toward greener health development, meeting participants explored future joint actions.

They agreed to organize a follow-up meeting in Beijing on green health care, and build a health care component into the 2017 U.S. – China Climate Leaders Summit in Boston.


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