Climate change boosts risk of nastier parasites

 

HEALTH BRIEFING:PARASITES LOOK set to become more virulent because of climate change, according to a study showing that frogs suffer more infections from a fungus when exposed to unexpected swings in temperatures.

Parasites, which include tapeworms, the tiny organisms that cause malaria and fungi, may be more nimble at adapting to climatic shifts than the animals they live on since they are smaller and grow more quickly, scientists said.

“Increases in climate variability are likely to make it easier for parasites to infect their hosts,” Thomas Raffel of Oakland University in the United States said, based on findings about frogs and a sometimes deadly skin fungus.

“We think this could exacerbate the effects of some disease,” he said of the report he led with colleagues at the University of South Florida.

The findings appear in the current edition of the journal Nature Climate Change.

“Few . . . studies have considered the effects of climate variability or predictability on disease, despite it being likely that hosts and parasites will have differential responses to climatic shifts,” they wrote.

The scientists exposed Cuban treefrogs in 80 laboratory incubators to varying temperatures and infections of a fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, that is often deadly for the amphibians.

In one experiment, frogs kept at a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius for four weeks suffered far more infections when they were shifted to incubators at 15C and exposed to the fungus than frogs already used to living at 15C. – (Reuters)