Fischer, D: Book review: Friedrich, Bärbel; Hacker, Jörg; Hasnain, Sayed E.; Mettenleiter, Thomas C. and Schell, Jens (eds.): Climate Change and Infectious Diseases. 119 pp., 22 figs. and 12 tabs. Nova Acta Leopoldina NF Vol. 111, No. 381. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart 2010, € 21,50 / sFr 36.60, Erdkunde, 66(1) (2012)
Recently, climate change effects on infectious diseases have been receiving increasing political and scientific awareness. Consequently, a growing body of literature addresses this topic. The reasons for climate change effects on infectious diseases are manifold. Expectedly, climate change impacts the incidence, prevalence and distribution of several infectious diseases with different modes of transmission (e.g., water-, air- and vector-borne diseases). Vector-borne diseases are transmitted via specific arthropod or rodent disease vectors between mammal (including human) hosts. Obviously, climate change can influence life cycles and distributions of such arthropod or rodent vectors. Moreover, periods of extreme weather conditions that are expected to increase in the 21st century can generally alter seasonal patterns of disease emergence or shorten the respective time for pathogen development. Under these circumstances, the international symposium “Climate Change and Infectious Diseases” was held in May 2009 in Greifswald, Germany. The present anthology with the same name, published within the “Nova Acta Leopoldina” series, is the outcome of this conference. The first chapter gives an overview concerning the past naturally forced climate changes and the expected future (mainly anthropogenic) climate changes with the related consequences for humans, animals and biodiversity. The impact of past or rather historical climate change on evolution and biodiversity is described extensively. The contribution by Stock: “Predictions, Projections, and Perspectives of Climate Change” should be especially appreciated. He distinguishes between weather as short-term condition in the lower atmosphere and climate as a state of the Earth system, depending on many internal and external processes. Furthermore, he emphasizes the use of the word “projections” instead of “prediction”, when we are talking about future climate change as our expectation concerning the velocity of climate change is highly dependent on our assumptions. Such definitions are extremely useful in order to avoid word confusion and misunderstandings on a research topic, where scientific multilingualism is required. The subsequent focus of this anthology is clearly directed to vector-borne diseases. In my opinion, it would have been advisable to differentiate between those diseases that are transmitted via specific vectors in a more consistent way. The incorporation of articles dealing with leishmaniasis (a sandfly-borne disease) and infections caused by Dirofilaria (a mosquito-borne pathogen) within the chapter of human infections can mislead inexperienced readers. In both cases, animals and especially dogs can become infected and fall sick as well. Unfortunately, an article on the topic Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that is often found in the human stomach, is integrated within the chapter of vector-borne infections, although the main route of transmission is considered as contagious and hence is not directly dependent on a specific vector. Most of the authors review the state of the art of literature or report current observations on weather or climate (change) impacts on a specific infectious disease. For instance, the relationship between weather conditions and the emergence of the bluetongue virus affecting ruminants in the Netherlands is pointed out nicely (Conraths et al). Worth mentioning is the sophisticated and well-structured documentation concerning research challenges on the example of wildlife hosts and their pathogens in the face of climate change by Hofer and East. I like the fact that climate change is not considered exclusively as the driving force for spreading infectious diseases. Indeed, in this context especially the importation of “exotic” pathogens to higher latitudes, due to intensified global exchanges and increasing human travelling activities, constitutes one of the main striking issues (see Niedrig). This necessarily demands suitable surveillance activities at typical introduction gates such as airports and harbours, located in climatic risk zones. Furthermore, Süss informs about the additional role of land-use changes, socio-economical developments and the growing awareness of disease epidemiology resulting in an increased number of infections on the example of tick-borne diseases. The “Emerging diseases in a changing European environment (EDEN) Research Project” network (Hendrickx and Lancelots) presented here, seems promising and innovative with respect to data sharing and the structure of the interdisciplinary research. However, it might have been preferable to exemplarily present the possibilities of using remotely sensed data and GIS-applications for spatial models of infectious diseases or simply mapping disease patterns. Therefore, such descriptions concerning analyses of the (spatial) structures of infectious diseases must be obtained instead from a recent paper by Eisen and Eisen (2011). To conclude, the present work “Climate Change and Infectious Diseases” contains several valuable contributions. However, the articles should have been structured more logically within this issue of the “Nova Acta Leopoldina”. Furthermore, although priority in science and policy must be given to an efficient reduction of lethality rates in humans and animals, climate change effects on infectious diseases resulting in socio-economical damages of societies, regions or nations should not being neglected. The editors note in the preface that “the participants agreed that it is too early to identify or predict concrete consequences”. Nevertheless, some – at least preliminary – results concerning potential future tendencies of infectious diseases in a warmer world would have been interesting. For the purpose of using climate change projections for spatio-temporal risk analyses of climate-sensitive infectious diseases, the interested readership is forced to get informed elsewhere (e.g., Jacob 2008; Fischer et al. 2011). References: Eisen, L. and Eisen, R. J. (2011): Using Geographic Information Systems and Decision Support Systems for the prediction, prevention, and control of vector-borne diseases. In: Annual Review of Entomology 56, 41–61. Fischer, D.; Thomas, S. M.; Niemitz, F.; Reineking, B. and Beierkuhnlein, C. (2011): Projection of climatic suitability for Aedes albopictus Skuse (Culicidae) in Europe under climate change conditions. In: Global and Planetary Change 78, 54–64. Jacob, D. (2008): Short communication on regional climate change scenarios and their possible use for impact studies on vector-borne disease. In: Parasitology Research 103 (Suppl. 1), 3–6.

last modified 2012-05-03