Professor Daniel Brooks, a zoologist from Nebraska, depicts a grim scenario about the effects climate change may have on the development of infectious diseases that were previously contained in warmer regions of the planet.
The researcher claims that, as the global temperature gets higher, tropical viruses such as Ebola and the West Nile virus may “migrate” in other regions posing a real challenge to the current health systems.
Prof. Daniel Brooks’ 30-year long research revealed that parasites now are starting to change hosts at a faster pace, and even settle for other species, a phenomenon considered to be improbable by scientists 100 years ago.
The professor said mankind should get prepared for an incoming wave of new diseases as climate change gets pathogens in closer contact with crops, livestock, and humans. He also claims that the states will face major challenges if they fail to keep up with the speed of the new illnesses as they spread worldwide.
However, Prof. Brooks believes that there will not be a mega-virus to wipe the humanity out. Instead, human communities will face “a lot of localized outbreaks” that would put an extra pressure on local medical and veterinary systems.
Professor Brooks bases his claims on his studies on tropical parasites, as well as on his colleague Professor Eric Hoberg’s studies on the parasites found in the Arctic regions. Both professors noticed that new species of viruses and parasites have arrived on areas that weren’t traditionally their habitat.
“Over the last 30 years, the places we’ve been working have been heavily impacted by climate change. Though I was in the tropics and he was in the Arctic, we could see something was happening,”
Prof. Brooks stated.
He also said that climate change may expose animals to new types of viruses and pathogens. For instance, his colleague observed that a species of lungworms has switched hosts from caribou to muskoxen in northern Canada. One hundred years ago such transition was considered to be impossible since scientists believed that hosts and parasites co-evolve and become more dependent on each other.
So, according to previous studies, the spread of new diseases should have been quite rare since the viruses had to wait for the perfect mutation to occur. Still, Prof. Brooks’ research reveals that such mutations happen frequently as climate change alters the natural habitat of species.
The professor is now concerned about the lack of awareness of the emergence of new diseases in a society that is not even paying attention to their basic biology and origin.
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