As Temperatures Rise, Malaria Will Invade Higher Elevations
Temperatures and environmental conditions are changing, causing the spread of disease to shift. How those changes and shifts will play out, however, is the subject of debate. It’s impossible to build a computer model that perfectly mimics the real world and can thus predict, say, where mid-latitude regions will become warm enough for tropical diseases to thrive or wet enough to enhance the spread of water-borne pathogens. But research does suggest that—similar to shifts in animal and plant distributions as climate changes—some places will see rates of certain diseases drop, while others will see an increase or introduction of those diseases.
Shifting patterns of disease do not apply only by latitude, however. Just as how the distribution of desert cacti is slowly creeping into Arizona’s hills or how lowland insects are moving into mountains in Borneo as climate warms, diseases can also broaden their distributions by reaching higher and higher elevations. And according to a new study published by American, British, Ethiopian and Colombian researchers in Science, it’s already happening.