What is the link between climate crisis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases?

Malaria and its spread is in this historical context exacerbated by climate change

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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What is the link between climate crisis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases?
© Christopher Furlong / Staff Getty Images News

Malaria is a problem that still affects a part of the world's population today. And its spread is in this historical context exacerbated by climate change.

The study Climate change, malaria and neglected tropical diseases: a scoping review, published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, provided an interesting retrospective on the issue.

The researchers explained: "To explore the effects of climate change on malaria and 20 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), and potential effect amelioration through mitigation and adaptation, we searched for papers published from January 2010 to October 2023. We descriptively synthesized extracted data. We analyzed numbers of papers meeting our inclusion criteria by country and national disease burden, healthcare access and quality index (HAQI), as well as by climate vulnerability score meeting the inclusion criteria, 185 studied malaria, 181 dengue and chikungunya and 53 other NTDs were relatively understudied change on malaria and NTDs are likely to vary by disease and location, be non-linear and evolve over time.

Climate Crisis
Climate Crisis© Christopher Furlong / Staff Getty Images News
 

Available analyzes do not allow confident prediction of the overall global impact of climate change on these diseases. For dengue and chikungunya and the group of non-vector-borne NTDs, the literature privileged consideration of current low-burden countries with a high HAQI. No leishmaniasis papers considered outcomes in East Africa. Comprehensive, collaborative and standardized modeling efforts are needed to better understand how climate change will directly and indirectly affect malaria and NTDs."

Malaria (also called paludism) is a parasitosis, a disease caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium (kingdom Protista, phylum Apicomplexa, class Sporozoea, order Eucoccidiida). Among the various species of Plasmodium parasite, four are the most widespread, but the most dangerous is Plasmodium falciparum, with the highest mortality rate among infested subjects. The parasite reservoir consists of chronically infected individuals. The vectors are mosquitoes of the Anopheles genus.

Climate crisis
Climate crisis© Christopher Furlong / Staff Getty Images News
 

Malaria is the most widespread of all parasites, with its clinical picture of acute febrile illness which manifests itself with signs of different severity depending on the infecting species. Its current diffusion is not limited to the tropical areas of South America, Africa and Asia, but also sporadically affects the USA and other industrialized countries, where clinical cases of the disease may appear following the movement of people contract the disease in areas where it is endemic.
Because the symptoms of malaria are nonspecific, and diagnosis and treatment must be prompt, malaria should be suspected in all patients with febrile signs returning from the tropics.