The risk of mosquito-borne pathogens spreading to land will increase as temperatures rise, scientists say

Climate change will make the West Nile virus outbreak more likely in the UK within the next 20 to 30 years, scientists say.

West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and does not have a vaccine. Most people don’t have symptoms, but it can lead to serious neurological disorders.

Scientists from the UK Center for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS) and the University of Glasgow have developed a new model to determine the risk of a West Nile virus outbreak in the UK.

They found that the risk is small for the next two to three decades, but will increase as temperatures rise.

Dr. Steven White, Theoretical Ecologist at UKCEH, said: “Knowing if or when a new disease will affect us is vital.

“The West Nile virus is not present in the UK right now, but we are harboring it Culex pipiens Mosquito, which can transmit the disease and possibly spread to humans.

“The West Nile virus is now endemic in Italy and there have been outbreaks in Germany, so it is invading more temperate climates.

“Our model shows that the risk will steadily increase and future outbreaks in the UK are plausible.”

The team’s mathematical model studied the effects of temperature on the biological processes that drive the Culex pipiens Mosquito population in the UK. They were able to capture how these seasonal changes could interact with faster replication of the virus at higher temperatures to encourage outbreaks.

Dr. David Ewing of BioSS, a former PhD student at UKCEH when most of the research was done, said, “Our model shows that the predicted risk of an outbreak increases significantly as the biting season lasts or as new strains of the virus are introduced that are at a higher rate replicate than those already studied.

“Most of the other approaches are simplified, but we have built in complex biological relationships. This model could be adapted to study other viruses and diseases or other mosquito or insect species. ”

Dr. Ewing says the study shouldn’t be a cause for concern but should help Britain prepare. “Although the immediate danger is relatively minor, we can take steps to prepare for future outbreaks.

This could be as simple as making sure doctors are aware of symptoms, tests, and who is most at risk of becoming seriously ill. ”

The research was done in the. reported Journal of the Royal Society Interface – DOI: doi / 10.1098 / rsif.2021.0049


Notes for editors

About the West Nile Virus

(from the World Health Organization)

* West Nile virus can cause a fatal neurological disease in humans.

* However, around 80% of those infected show no symptoms.

* West Nile virus is mainly transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes.

* The virus can cause serious illness and death in horses.

* Vaccines are available for horses, but not yet for humans.

* Birds are the natural hosts of the West Nile Virus.

* It is common in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and Western Asia. WNV is maintained in nature in a cycle that involves transmission between birds and mosquitoes. Humans, horses and other mammals can be infected.

About the Culex pipiens mosquito

* Culex pipiens is the most common species of mosquito in the UK.

* In more northern latitudes, such as the UK, they feed primarily on birds, not people.

* Only females feed on blood (male Culex pipiens consume sources of carbohydrates) and are most active around sunset.

* The number of mosquito populations increases in the summer months, especially in hot and wet summers, which allows faster development and an increase in breeding sites.

* Over the winter in the UK, the mosquito species will stop eating blood meals and instead survive on sugary food sources when they enter diapause (similar to hibernation) as adults and inhabit sheltered places.

* The species occurs in both temperate and tropical climates.

* In addition to the West Nile Virus, Culex pipiens are carriers of other diseases such as avian malaria.

About the UK Center for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH)

The UK Center for Ecology & Hydrology is a center of excellence in environmental science in the fields of water, land and air. Our 500 scientists work to understand the environment, how it sustains life and how humans affect it – so that humans and nature can thrive together.

We have a long history of studying, monitoring, and modeling environmental change, and our science is making a positive difference in the world. Topics our science deals with include: air pollution, biodiversity, biosecurity, chemical risks, extreme weather events, droughts, floods, greenhouse gas emissions, land use, soil health, sustainable agriculture, sustainable ecosystems, sustainable use of macronutrients, and water resource management.

The UK Center for Ecology & Hydrology is a strategic partner for the Natural Environment Research Council, which is part of UK Research and Innovation.

http: // Kingdom@UK_CEH

About BioSS

BioSS specializes in developing and applying quantitative methods needed to improve scientific knowledge and impact.
We are internationally recognized for our work at the interface between mathematically sound sciences and a broad spectrum of applied sciences in the fields of agriculture and rural economy, the environment, nutrition and health.


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