The ecology of climate change and infectious diseases


  • Corresponding Editor: K. Wilson.


The projected global increase in the distribution and prevalence of infectious diseases with climate change suggests a pending societal crisis. The subject is increasingly attracting the attention of health professionals and climate-change scientists, particularly with respect to malaria and other vector-transmitted human diseases. The result has been the emergence of a crisis discipline, reminiscent of the early phases of conservation biology. Latitudinal, altitudinal, seasonal, and interannual associations between climate and disease along with historical and experimental evidence suggest that climate, along with many other factors, can affect infectious diseases in a nonlinear fashion. However, although the globe is significantly warmer than it was a century ago, there is little evidence that climate change has already favored infectious diseases. While initial projections suggested dramatic future increases in the geographic range of infectious diseases, recent models predict range shifts in disease distributions, with little net increase in area. Many factors can affect infectious disease, and some may overshadow the effects of climate.