Thursday, March 20, 2014

Malaria ‘Spreading to New Altitudes’

News Brief by Jessica Newfield

Recent research has found that people living at high altitudes are at an increased vulnerability of catching malaria during hotter years. The rise in temperature may be causing millions of additional cases in some areas of Africa and South America. Part of this vulnerability is due to the lack of malaria exposure at high altitudes in the past. The malaria parasite and the mosquito that carries it struggle to survive at high altitudes and in cooler air - therefore, people living at high altitudes carry no immunity to malaria as they have never been exposed.

In highly populated areas in the highlands of Colombia and Europe, there are records of malaria cases increasing with the temperature from 1990s to 2005. Researchers found that cases of malaria in these areas increased in warmer years rather than in cooler years. The researchers believe that rising temperature could cause a further spread in higher altitudes, predicting that as many as three million additional cases in people under 15 years old could occur with a 1°C rise in temperature. Researchers conclude that prevention efforts should be focused on areas at the edge of the spread in order to protect those who have never been exposed to malaria and are therefore the most vulnerable.

Morelle, Rebecca. (March 6, 2014). “Malaria ‘spreading to new altitudes.’” BBC News Health. March 12, 2014.
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