Global warming ups risk of new exposure to life-threatening diseases for 1 billion people

As global warming progresses, up to 1 billion people could be exposed to disease-carrying mosquitoes for the first time, increasing the risk of developing deadly diseases, according to a study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The study, led by researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., examined how two of the most common disease-carrying mosquitoes would move as temperatures intensified over the next 50 years. They analyzed temperatures on a month-by-month basis, projecting risk resulting from the spread of these mosquitoes through 2050 and 2080.

The mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, carry several viruses that cause diseases which could result in death, including dengue, chikunguyna and Zika.

The researchers found that as temperatures rise and the mosquito movements change, almost the entire population in the world could be exposed to them at some point in the next 50 years. The tropics would be at risk from the diseases these mosquitoes transmit all year long, while seasonal risks would increase everywhere else in the world.

"The risk of disease transmission is a serious problem, even over the next few decades," said Colin J. Carlson, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Georgetown University's biology department and co-lead author of the new study. "Places like Europe, North America, and high elevations in the tropics that used to be too cold for the viruses will face new diseases like dengue."


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