Thursday, May 20, 2010

New study says climate change will not increase malaria

A new scientific study says that malaria will not increase with climate change. The study printed in the journal Nature, says that current methods of fighting malaria should continue. The researches recommend not letting climate change enter the discussion when talking about dealing with malaria.

From the Montreal Gazette, CamWest News service writer Mark Ivpe tells us more about the study.

"The investment in fighting malaria that is taking place right now will far outweigh the effects caused by the nudge of climate change," said Pete Gething, an epidemiologist with Oxford University and lead author of the study.

Malaria infection takes place when a person is bitten by an anopheles mosquito infected with a single-cell parasite called plasmodium. Once the parasite enters the bloodstream, it matures and multiplies. In just a few hours, it can destroy thousands of red blood cells, leading to severe anemia and sometimes death.

The researchers' theory was based on work using the various modelling studies that predict the spread of malaria due to climate change. First, they entered data collected during the 20th century, when global temperatures showed a steady rise similar to what is expected with global warming.

Based on those models, areas where malaria is endemic should have expanded - instead, the disease showed a steady decline.

The researchers concluded that modern efforts to fight the disease, combined with improving socio-economic conditions in the developing world, could outweigh the effects of global warming by as much as tenfold.

"We need to focus on dealing with the disease with our current tools," Gething said. "Climate change doesn't need to come into the discussion. It's just a distraction."

Lea Berrang Ford, an epidemiologist at McGill University, said the study's findings might prove correct, but it takes an optimistic view of international development.

"If you believe that conditions in places where malaria is a problem are getting better, then I agree, climate change might not have that big an effect," she said. "But a pessimist might ask, are things getting better?"

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