Experts predict future climate change will push malaria into new parts of Africa, putting new populations at risk.
The findings, based on a mathematical model, also suggest some parts of the continent will become too hot for malaria.
The overall expansion of malaria-vulnerable areas will challenge management of the deadly disease, says Sadie Ryan, assistant professor of geography at the University of Florida.
“Mapping a mathematical predictive model of a climate-driven infectious disease like malaria allows us to develop tools to understand both spatial and seasonal dynamics, and to anticipate the future changes to those dynamics,” Ryan says.
Ryan and colleagues used a model that takes into account the real, curved, physiological responses of both mosquitoes and the malaria parasite to temperature.
The model shows an optimal transmission temperature for malaria that, at 25 degrees Celsius, is 6 degrees Celsius lower than previous predictive models.
The findings suggests that by 2080, the transmission zone with the highest year-round risk will move from coastal West Africa and spread east to the Albertine Rift, between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. The area suitable for seasonal, lower-risk transmission will shift north into coastal sub-Saharan Africa.
The study, published in the journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, could play an important role in helping public health officials and NGOs plan for the efficient deployment of resources and interventions to control future outbreaks of malaria and their associated societal costs, Ryan says.
Researchers from Stanford University, Rutgers University, the University of South Florida, the Universitat de Barcelona, NASA, and the US Geological Survey contributed to the study.
Source: University of Florida