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Climate Change Might Increase Risk Of Malaria

Researchers predict future climate change will increase worldwide rates of malaria.
Posted at 12:15 PM, Mar 08, 2014

New research suggests future climate change will bring malaria to parts of the globe where it's never before existed.

The study found mosquitoes, which thrive in warm climates, will soon be able to live in high-altitude areas as those places get inevitably warmer. (Via YouTube / ookkonaaoulusta)

The study, which was published in Science, reports researchers looked at two areas in the "malaria-belt"—Colombia and Ethiopia—over 15 years and found that "the mean altitude of malaria cases shifted to higher levels in warmer years and back to lower levels in cooler years." 

"Researchers in the U.S. and Britain said it's the first hard evidence of a link between climate change and malaria. It could lead to a significant increase in places where people are more vulnerable." (Via KAET)

These findings are significant, especially since Time notes malaria hasn't previously been found in high-altitude areas, where the cold temperatures slow down the parasite inside the mosquito. 

One of the researchers spoke with The Independent about the implications of malaria spreading to the more densely-populated high-altitude areas of Africa and South America. 

"They are more populated than the lowlands partly because there is more rainfall but also partly because there has been less malaria. They have been privileged places to live because of that, and many of these people have not been exposed to malaria and so will not be naturally protected against it."

The World Health Organization says there were 207 million cases of malaria in 2012. An estimated 627,000 people died from the disease, most of whom were African children. 

A reporter for Time tells the BBC researchers found higher malaria risk proportional to higher temperatures.

"The researchers in this paper and in an earlier study looked at what would happen if the weather warmed by 1 degree Celsius in Ethiopia. And they found that would be enough to infect an additional 3 million children."

The researchers did stress they only studied two countries in the so-called "malaria belt" and suggested the study should be conducted in more countries before acting on their conclusions.