Friday, February 26, 2010

Malaria, Revisited

Today on Science-Based Medicine, there is an article talking about the effects of climate change on infectious disease. Mark Crislip writes,
Diseases that may increase in the US or become endemic again include malaria, dengue, and Leishmaniasis. A 4 degree rise in temperature could allow dengue to exist as far north as Winnipeg and malaria to be in all of Europe. Seems to be a good trade off to me: more dengue and malaria, less RSV [respiratory syncytial virus].

Good times for an infectious disease doctor.

Not so good times for the rest of us.

Just for the record, I was saying this three years ago. On Tuesday, 16 January 2007, I wrote:
I've been watching what has been happening with insect-borne and emerging diseases in this area. Due to climate change, the ranges of various insects are moving northward. Species that once couldn't survive the cold winters here are now thriving. Combine that with ubiquitous and fast overseas travel from around the world, and is it really so farfetched to think that we could begin to see malaria in this area somewhere soon? Already there has been a localised outbreak in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Yes, it could happen here, probably in much the same manner as SARS. I am not a doctor (nor do I play one on tv), and I'm not an epidemiologist (even a barefoot one), but I think it's probably safe to assume that the native strain of malaria is eradicated, and I wouldn't want to speculate on the chances of reintroducing or re-evolving a plasmodium parasite that can live in our native mosquitoes ... but I also don't think it's completely unrealistic to think we might see a reappearance of malaria in North American temperate zones in our lifetimes, either.

Sometimes I hate being right...