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Climate Change May Give Rise To New Infectious Diseases

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Researchers have found a new type of disease in animals that involves the function of the microbiome. They believe climate change can be a cause of many new infectious diseases.

Many infectious diseases, especially the ones crossbreeding species boundaries (also known as zoonoses), are a consequence of human actions. The development is, partially, due to climate variation and change in weather patterns. Due to all this, few pathogen-carrying classes that could live in specific conditions only can now migrate outside their specific habitats.

Tiger mosquito, for example, which transmits viral infection Chikungunya, is now extending its geographic area beyond Europe and America. This is due to climate changes such as air pollution and other such human activities.

A recently published paper presents a unique prototype of infectious disease dynamics, which shows the function of the microbiome — the beneficial bacteria which live on the skin and inside.

The researchers suspect that climate change may destabilize this design. They also suggest that this can lead to the rise of different infectious diseases due to change in the microbiome of mammals.

A New Model for Infectious Diseases

In infection ecology, researchers use the terminology “disease triangle”. It is used to determine the role of host, the environment where the disease spreads.

The authors of the study say that the concept gives an “oversimplified” view of the dynamics of infectious diseases. The researchers had broadened the concept so the microbiome can be included.

The microbiome is used to describe communities of microorganisms. In animal context, theses microbial communities usually live inside or on the animals. They have very important roles such as helping to break down food and protecting against pathogens.

The researchers have found that communities are very important for the ecosystem, wildlife, and humans. The human gut, itself hosts over 1,000 distinct classes of bacteria. Research has found those bacteria necessary in various aspects of health.

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Dr. Adeline who headed the study explained that they are now beginning to understand the role of microbiomes in health prophylaxis and their interacting pattern.

The scientists display a “disease pyramid” – a prototype of infection dynamics. It shows the relation between the host, the environment, the pathogen, and the microbiome.

The Role of Climate:

The microbiome, in some way, determines whether a pathogen will infect an animal in a particular environment or not. According to the authors, mosquito, for example, has very few chances to get malaria if it has added bacteria of the Enterobacteriaceae family.

The first author of the study, Adriana P. Bernardo-Cravo, from the Université de Toulouse, France, explained that the microbiome in equilibrium can offer protection from infection in the altering conditions of the environment.

However, climate change affects the microbiome.

The microbiome balances different species of bacteria. It helps to guard an organism against the plague. Environmental changes can make it lose balance.

The temperature has a major impact on the composition of the microbiome. It can be the reason why climate variation increases the risk of infection spread. Hence, it may affect amphibians the most as they depend on external temperature to regulate their body functioning.

As an example, researchers indicated a disease (fungal), chytridiomycosis, which impacts amphibians, with the inclusion of frogs.

Amphibians have further diversity in the microbiome and are show more resistance to disease. The antifungal bacteria living on the skin can battle it. Climate changes can also affect this and can result in a further deterioration of the most threatened vertebrates, amphibians.

Prof. Dirk Schmeller, Université de Toulouse explained the necessity of awareness regarding biodiversity loss and climate change, as they can cause stress on ecosystems. This will consequently affect humans, animals, and the microbiome. Moreover, the research reveals that if the various axes of the disease pyramid become unstable, new infectious illnesses will emerge, with the inclusion of humans.