Global warming takes malaria risk to hilly areasLONDON: Those living in the mountains or higher altitudes across the world will soon face the wrath of the world's deadliest vector borne disease — malaria.
What is more worrying is that the severity of the disease is expected to be far more because the populations in the mountains lack protective immunity against the disease. Researchers estimated that a 1 degree celsius temperature increase could result in an additional 3 million malaria cases annually, in under-15 population.
Researchers have debated for more than two decades the likely impacts of global warming on the worldwide incidence of malaria, a disease that infects more than 300 million people each year.
Now, ecologists have found the first hard evidence that malaria does creep to higher elevations during warmer years and back down to lower altitudes when temperatures cool.
The study, based on an analysis of records from highland regions of Ethiopia and Colombia, suggests that future climate warming will result in a significant increase in malaria cases in densely-populated regions of Africa and South America, unless disease monitoring and control efforts are boosted and sustained.
Scientists from the University of Michigan found that the median altitude of malaria cases shifted to higher elevations in warmer years and back to lower elevations in cooler years.
"Our latest research suggests that with progressive global warming, malaria will creep up the mountains and spread to new high-altitude areas. And because these populations lack protective immunity, they will be particularly vulnerable to severe morbidity and mortality," said Menno Bouma from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
"We saw an upward expansion of malaria cases to higher altitudes in warmer years, which is a clear signal of a response by highland malaria to changes in climate," said University of Michigan ecologist Mercedes Pascual.
Pascual added: "This is indisputable evidence of a climate effect. The main implication is that with warmer temperatures, we expect to see a higher number of people exposed to the risk of malaria in tropical highland areas like these."
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