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Climate change and vector-borne diseases: A regional analysis

As global temperatures rise, vector-borne disease is set to increase in the developing world but patterns will vary across countries. This review looks at how the prevalence of vector-borne disease will change in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.

As the authors explain, urbanisation levels will determine which diseases are likely to hit hardest. For example, dengue fever is a largely urban disease and will affect South America, where over 70 per cent of the population live in cities, far more than it will Sub-Saharan Africa, where less than 30 per cent of people live in urban areas. Malaria, by contrast, will have a bigger impact in Africa.

As ecosystems change, so will the distribution of vector species. Some will find their habitats expanded. A positive note is that most vectors cannot survive above about 40 degrees Celsius, so regions in which warming tips the temperature over this level could well see a drop in vector-borne disease — this is starting to be seen in Senegal, for example.

But the precise extent to which climate variability affects vector-borne disease is yet unknown, say the authors, which hampers evidence-based policy change.