Infectious diseases such as the West Nile virus and Ebola are a consequence of climate change, according to Daniel Brooks, a zoologist affiliated with the Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In other words humans will undoubtedly have to put up with other illnesses that will to emerge in the future.
Because climate change is shifting habitats and is bringing wildlife, livestock, crops and people into contact with pathogens to which they have never been exposed before.
“Over the last 30 years, the places we’ve been working have been heavily impacted by climate change. (…) Even though I was in the tropics and he was in the Arctic, we could see something was happening.” Changes in habitat mean animals are exposed to new parasites and pathogens,”
At first, biologists and scientists didn’t know that parasites could jump from one species to another with no difficulty just because its host evolved and is no longer eligible.
To make the matter easier to understand, Brooks used an example involving the capuchin and spider monkeys, which had been hunted to extinction Costa Rica. However, the parasites that used to infect these species then moved to howler monkeys, where they are still found today.
Another example focuses on recent years, when lungworm parasites have managed to shift from caribou to musk oxen in the Canadian Arctic.
So in spite of previous beliefs, hosts and parasites do become adapted to each other over time, but even these adapted parasites are able to move to new hosts under convenient circumstances. Disease-causing bacteria and viruses are thus able to change hosts rather quickly. But the sad thing is that these new hosts may become sicker from the infections as they have not developed resistance.
The article is a part of a special issue regarding climate change from the scientific journal Philosophical Transcriptions of the Royal Society B. The authors of this study are Daniel Brooks, a zoologist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln along with Eric Hoberg, who is a zoologist for the U.S. National Parasite Collection of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.