Malaria disease on the rise with climate change

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

malaria lab
Malaria researchers study both mosquitoes and the disease to better develop treatments and prevent future infections.

Malaria, a life-threatening blood disease that causes fevers, chills, and flu-like symptoms, is usually found in hot tropical areas like Africa, Asia, and South America. That’s because mosquitoes and the tiny malaria-causing microorganisms they carry don’t like cold temperatures.

However, as sunlight increasingly breaks through Earth’s pollution-weakened atmosphere, global warming is making traditionally malaria-free regions vulnerable to the disease.

Scientists studied malaria rates from the African country of Ethiopia and the South American country of Colombia. The highlands of these two continents showed higher malaria exposure during warmer years, and lower frequency in colder years.

Professor Mercedes Pascual, a malaria researcher from the University of Michigan in the US, said, “We have estimated that, based on the distribution of malaria with altitude, a [1 degrees Celsius] rise in temperature could lead to an additional three million cases in under-15-year-olds per year.”

The World Health Organization estimates that there were 207 million cases of malaria in 2012, causing approximately 627,000 deaths. Fortunately, researchers are working on treatments, and many breakthroughs have been found.

Featured image courtesy of Lukas Hofstetter on Flickr. Image of malaria lab courtesy of NIAID on Flickr.