Posted by Neha Jindal on May 22, 2010

Researchers from University of Oxford, UK, contradicted the known fact that increasing global temperatures multiplies vector-borne population, saying that the incidences of malaria have reduced in the twentieth century owing to better medications and awareness among people.

The Times of India quoted lead researcher, Dr. Pete Gething, Oxford’s Department of Zoology as saying, “We know that warming can boost malaria transmission but the major declines we’ve measured have happened during a century of rising temperatures, so clearly a changing climate doesn’t tell the whole story.”

Research details
Researchers conducted a study called ‘Malaria Atlas Project’ wherein they gathered data on malaria-occurrence between 1900 and 2007 and measured transformation in the disease-risk.

They found that in the face of increasing temperatures in the recent decades, incidences of the disease have reduced.

Researchers attributed the lowered rate of malaria to the increase in anti-malarial drugs over the last century.

In addition, there have been control measures ranging from marsh drainage to insecticides to bed-nets.

These measures were found to be highly efficient in restraining the disease across Asia, North America and Europe.

Experts speak
Gething was cited in Nature News as saying, “Malaria is still a huge problem. But climate change per se is not something that should be central to the discussion.”

Nature News further quoted Paul Reiter, entomologist, Pasteur Institute, Paris as stating, “The complexity of malaria and the other vector-borne diseases is astonishing. To bring it down to just one factor--climate change--is totally unjustifiable.”

Reiter also called the predictions of climate change-based malaria epidemics as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘based on intuition and misapplication of elementary models’.

“Malaria remains a huge public health problem, and the international community has an unprecedented opportunity to relieve this burden with existing interventions,” Hindu quoted study-collaborator Simon Hay as saying.

“Any failure in meeting this challenge will be very difficult to attribute to climate change,” added Hay.

Study limitations
According to researchers, the data used to generate a worldwide-map of malaria in the year 1900 looked into all malarial-infections, including the parasite Plasmodium vivax, whereas the 2007-data observed mere one parasite--Plasmodium falciparum.

Furthermore, the analysis did not consider factors like rainfall patterns and human migrations, which are liable to change owing to global warming.

The study appears in the journal Nature.



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