Over Half Of World Population Could Be At Risk Of Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Over Half Of World Population Could Be At Risk Of Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Over Half Of World Population Could Be At Risk Of Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Scientists have predicted that if the current trajectory of population growth and carbon emissions continues, 4.7 billion people could be affected by mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria by the end of the century.

According to experts, mosquito-borne outbreaks, driven by global warming, are set to spread to parts of northern Europe and other regions of the world over the next few decades.

Globally, the number of dengue cases reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) has increased ten-fold in the last two decades, from 500,000 cases in 2000 to over five million in 2019.

In Europe, the mosquitoes that carry dengue have invaded 13 European countries since 2000, with local spread of the disease recorded in France, Italy and Spain in 2023.

The researchers said that, until recently, dengue was mostly confined to tropical and subtropical regions due to the fact that freezing temperatures kill the mosquito’s larvae and eggs.

Rachel Lowe, a professor at the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies in Spain, said: “Global warming due to climate change means that the disease vectors that carry and spread malaria and dengue can find a home in more regions, with outbreaks occurring in areas where people are likely to be immunologically naive and public health systems unprepared.”

Lowe added: “The stark reality is that longer hot seasons will enlarge the seasonal window for the spread of mosquito-borne diseases and favour increasingly frequent outbreaks that are increasingly complex to deal with.”

The researchers said that if global warming can be limited to 1 deg C, then the population at risk of malaria and dengue could increase by an additional 2.4 billion people by 2100. But based on their research, they predict that if we remain on the current trajectory of population growth and carbon emissions, 4.7 billion could be affected by dengue and malaria by the end of the century.

Professor Lowe believes that: “With climate change seeming so difficult to address, we can expect to see more cases and possibly deaths from diseases such as dengue and malaria across mainland Europe. We must anticipate outbreaks and move to intervene early to prevent diseases from happening in the first place.”

The researchers are currently developing new ways to predict where and when dengue and malaria epidemics might occur, using disease surveillance and climate change data.

Rachel Lowe said: “By analysing weather patterns, finding mosquito breeding sites with drones, and gathering information from local communities and health officials, we are hoping to give communities time to prepare and protect themselves.”

“But ultimately,” insisted Lowe, “the most effective way to reduce the risk of these diseases spreading to new areas will be to dramatically curb emissions.”

The findings of this research were presented at the ESCMID Global Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

Half of world's population at risk of mosquito-borne diseases
As population growth continues to drive emissions and global temperature increases, mosquito-borne diseases will no longer be confined to tropical and subtropical regions.

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