A new study claims that by 2080, more than 8 billion people would be in danger of malaria and dengue fever if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow unchecked.

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According to recent estimates, malaria and dengue fever would spread to billions of people.

Affecting Billions

Schools of Mosquitoes
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According to researchers, the world's two most common mosquito-borne illnesses might harm up to 4.7 billion more people than they did from 1970 to 1999.

The estimates are based on forecasts of a population increase of roughly 4.5 billion people during the same time span and a temperature increase of around 3.7 degrees Celsius by 2100.

The study, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and published in the Lancet Planetary Health journal, found that if emissions continue to rise at current rates, the effect on global temperatures could extend transmission seasons by more than a month for malaria and four months for dengue fever over the next 50 years.

"This work clearly implies that decreasing greenhouse gas emissions might save millions of people from acquiring malaria and dengue fever," said Felipe J Colón-González, assistant professor at LSHTM and one of the report's authors.

"The findings demonstrate that low-emission scenarios lower the duration of transmission and the number of individuals at danger substantially. Action to keep global temperature rises well below 2 degrees Celsius [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] must continue.

"Policymakers and public health authorities, on the other hand, should be prepared for all scenarios, including those in which emissions stay high. This is especially essential in disease-free areas where health services are likely to be unprepared in the event of a big outbreak."

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According to the World Health Organization, malaria kills over 400,000 people each year, the majority of them are children. More than 90 percent of the projected 230 million infections in 2019 occurred in Africa. For the most severe type of malaria, P falciparum, which accounts for 90% of cases, artemisinin-based combination therapy is now the best effective treatment.

Dengue fever does not have a particular therapy. With over half of the world's population in danger, the disease is under-reported. Dengue fever infects between 100 and 400 million individuals each year, killing 20,000 people.

Current Figures

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According to Rachel Lowe, associate professor at LSHTM and one of the study's authors, several nations, such as Eritrea, Sudan, and Colombia, have witnessed a substantial return of malaria in recent years. In addition, dengue fever cases recorded to the WHO has grown by more than eightfold in the previous two decades, from 505,430 in 2000 to 5.2 million in 2019, she said.

"Our findings highlight the necessity of improved surveillance in probable disease hotspot locations to monitor disease emergence," she added.


Aedes aegypti (IMAGE)
(Photo : Muhammad Mahdi Karim/WikimediaCommons)

Various amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, population density, and altitude are considered in the LSHTM research. However, experts admit that several important aspects were overlooked, such as the disease's evolution and vector and the development of more potent medicines and vaccinations. For example, malaria vaccine studies are under underway. In addition, in certain countries, a dengue vaccine has been approved.

"Current malaria and dengue management efforts primarily focus on decreasing mosquito populations and limiting mosquito-human contact," Colón-González added. While mosquito reduction programs can be beneficial, they are challenging to maintain, especially in low-income nations where limited resources must be divided between mosquito control and treatment."

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