The rise and fall of infectious disease in a warmer world.


Now-outdated estimates proposed that climate change should have increased the number of people at risk of malaria, yet malaria and several other infectious diseases have declined. Although some diseases have increased as the climate has warmed, evidence for widespread climate-driven disease expansion has not materialized, despite increased research attention. Biological responses to warming depend on the non-linear relationships between physiological performance and temperature, called the thermal response curve. This leads performance to rise and fall with temperature. Under climate change, host species and their associated parasites face extinction if they cannot either thermoregulate or adapt by shifting phenology or geographic range. Climate change might also affect disease transmission through increases or decreases in host susceptibility and infective stage (and vector) production, longevity, and pathology. Many other factors drive disease transmission, especially economics, and some change in time along with temperature, making it hard to distinguish whether temperature drives disease or just correlates with disease drivers. Although it is difficult to predict how climate change will affect infectious disease, an ecological approach can help meet the challenge.

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