The timely issue of climate change and how the burden of infectious diseases is modulated by climatic factors is the focus of recent Review published in Proceedings B. The authors, from various institutions in the USA, UK and Sweden, concluded that in order to evaluate the impact of climate change on the incidence of infectious diseases, we must move beyond identifying simple correlations and statistical associations between climatic variables and incident cases of disease to identifying the underlying causal mechanisms. We asked lead author C. Jessica Metcalf to provide a summary of their article.
‘It has been recognised for centuries that environmental and climatic conditions help shape human health. Climatic drivers like temperature, rainfall, and humidity could affect infectious diseases by many routes, from altering mosquito lifespans to changing how long viruses stay in the air. Quantifying the relationship between climate variables and infectious diseases is important for predicting the impact of climate change, but is complicated by the many other factors at play. For example, low incidence of an infection in a region might mean that the climate isn’t suitable for that pathogen. However, it might also mean that the region was very suitable climatically, but that control efforts like vaccination, or distribution of bed-nets had driven down incidence; or that previous exposure to the pathogen meant that everyone in the population was already immune. Disentangling the impact of climate of infectious disease therefore requires careful detective work leveraging the broad span of data on variation in both disease incidence and climate variables across space and time. Here we discuss methods and approaches, from using experimental models to analysing big data, which can be used to tease apart these effects and better predict the future burden of infectious diseases under climate change. This work was inspired in part by funding from Wellcome’s Our Planet Our Health programme.’
Proceedings B is looking to publish more high-quality Review articles that generate innovative ideas, constructive discussions and critiques of the field across all areas of the biological sciences. As the journal serves a broad biological audience our reviews have a wide reach, are freely available online, continue to achieve good usage and are well cited. If you have an idea for a Review, we strongly encourage you to submit a proposal by completing our proposal template and sending it to the journal. More information can be found on our website.