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Altitudinal Changes in Malaria Incidence in Highlands of Ethiopia and Colombia

Science  07 Mar 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6175, pp. 1154-1158
DOI: 10.1126/science.1244325

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Altitude Sickness

Whether the incidence of malaria will be (or has been) affected by the warming climate is poorly resolved. Global-scale analyses are fraught with technical difficulties, including problems with separating out changes resulting from destruction of mosquito habitat, insecticide use, and antimalarial drug use from multidecadal trends in climate change. Siraj et al. (p. 1154) performed parallel analyses of highland malaria in Ethiopia and Colombia to ask whether interannual changes in temperature could explain variation in malaria incidence with altitude. Modeling the data confirmed that malaria moves up in elevation in warmer years and allowed estimates of how many more millions of cases could be expected in tropical highland areas if the mean temperature increased by 1° to 3°C.

Abstract

The impact of global warming on insect-borne diseases and on highland malaria in particular remains controversial. Temperature is known to influence transmission intensity through its effects on the population growth of the mosquito vector and on pathogen development within the vector. Spatiotemporal data at a regional scale in highlands of Colombia and Ethiopia supplied an opportunity to examine how the spatial distribution of the disease changes with the interannual variability of temperature. We provide evidence for an increase in the altitude of malaria distribution in warmer years, which implies that climate change will, without mitigation, result in an increase of the malaria burden in the densely populated highlands of Africa and South America.

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