Climate change could drive rise in debilitating disease

August 7, 2014, Bournemouth University

A disease prevalent in developing countries could be spread by the changes in rainfall patterns according to a new study.

Buruli ulcer affects thousands of people every year, mainly in developing countries, and in the worst cases can cause fatality or permanent disability. The devastating bacterial infection starts with an area of swelling that becomes ulcerated, causing painful open wounds and necrosis of the skin. It is unknown how the water-borne disease is transmitted.

The study, published in Emerging Microbes and Infections, found a strong link between Buruli ulcer outbreaks in French Guiana, in South America, and changes in complex , including extreme rainfall events driven by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO refers to warm and cool ocean-atmosphere events that take place off the coast of Western South America – with the study showing that this atmospheric anomaly can affect the spread of disease in this area.

Researchers from Bournemouth University found that outbreaks of Buruli ulcer can be triggered by changes in climate, with rainfall playing a large part in the spread of the disease.

Bournemouth University's Aaron Morris was lead investigator on the research project as a part of his PhD. Aaron said, "Understanding how infection levels respond to climatic factors is hugely important, particularly with poorly understood, emergent diseases such as Buruli ulcer. These links help us shed light on their ecology and enable us to more accurately predict outbreaks. They are also vital in understanding how will affect the dynamics and emergence of pathogens in the future."

The research has focussed on the link between biodiversity and the spread of diseases in humans, with field research conducted in French Guiana focussing on Buruli ulcer. Biodiversity is an unpredictable and under-researched driving force in the prevalence and transmission of diseases, and this study shows the link between changing ecosystems and the occurrence of disease.

Bournemouth University experts Demetra Andreou, Rodolphe Gozlan and Hossein Hassani were also instrumental in researching Buruli ulcer.

As a result of the research, it may be possible to predict and prevent future outbreaks of the debilitating infection by predicting future weather patterns in countries that are susceptible to the disease and to fluctuating patterns of . The research also paves the way for future research into the impact of biodiversity and climate change on the spread of diseases.

Explore further: Reservoir of deforming tropical disease sought

More information: Emerging Microbes and Infections (2014) 3, e56; DOI: 10.1038/emi.2014.56 , 2014 SSCC. 2222-1751/14

Related Stories

Reservoir of deforming tropical disease sought

October 5, 2009
Knowing what causes a disease may not make it easier to control and contain infection, but understanding how humans become infected and where the pathogens live may improve control. A National Science Foundation grant for ...

A novel genetic typing approach reveals focal transmission of the bacteria that cause the flesh-eating disease

July 28, 2010
Buruli ulcer is an infectious disease afflicting thousands of children every year. The difficult-to-cure disease, which is caused by bacteria, occurs in tropical or subtropical climate zones and results in open sores and ...

Cytoskeletal dysregulation underlies Buruli ulcer formation

March 15, 2013
Mycobacterium ulcerans infects the skin and subcutaneous tissues and secretes a lipid toxin, mycolactone, which causes open skin lesions, known as Buruli ulcers.

Australia to see worse drought thanks to intensifying El Niño

October 14, 2013
New research by the Bureau of Meteorology – published shows El Niño will intensify between 2050 and 2100 thanks to climate change.

Genome sequencing reveals genetic diversity of the bacteria that cause Buruli ulcer

September 11, 2009
A new study lays the groundwork for development of a cost-effective tool for studying the population structure and spread of Mycobacterium ulcerans, the causative agent of Buruli ulcer. Researchers at the Swiss Tropical Institute, ...

Can injuries to the skin be painless?

June 19, 2014
When the body receives an injury to the skin, a signal is sent to the brain, which generates a sensation of pain. Teams led by Priscille Brodin in Lille and Laurent Marsollier in Angers have studied lesions in patients with ...

Recommended for you

RNA processing and antiviral immunity

December 14, 2018
The RIG-I like receptors (RLRs) are intracellular enzyme sentries that detect viral infection and initiate a first line of antiviral defense. The cellular molecules that activate RLRs in vivo are not clear.

Faster test for Ebola shows promising results in field trials

December 13, 2018
A team of researchers with members from the U.S., Senegal and Guinea, in cooperation with Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), has developed a faster test for the Ebola virus than those currently in use. In their paper published ...

Drug targets for Ebola, Dengue, and Zika viruses found in lab study

December 13, 2018
No drugs are currently available to treat Ebola, Dengue, or Zika viruses, which infect millions of people every year and result in severe illness, birth defects, and even death. New research from the Gladstone Institutes ...

Urbanisation and air travel leading to growing risk of pandemic

December 13, 2018
Increased arrivals by air and urbanisation are the two main factors leading to a growing vulnerability to pandemics in our cities, a University of Sydney research team has found.

Researchers discover new interactions between Ebola virus and human proteins

December 13, 2018
Several new connections have been discovered between the proteins of the Ebola virus and human host cells, a finding that provides insight on ways to prevent the deadly Ebola virus from reproducing and could lead to novel ...

Faecal transplants, 'robotic guts' and the fight against deadly gut bugs

December 13, 2018
A simple compound found in our gut could help to stop dangerous bacteria behind severe, and sometimes fatal, hospital infections.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.