Climate change has the potential to significantly alter the range of human disease vectors, such as the Aedes aegypti mosquito, responsible for the transmission of Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika viruses.
In this study, researchers in Colombia—a country with abundant mosquito proliferation and limited resources for medical care and vector control—used GBIF-mediated occurrences of A. aegypti combined with environmental data to model the distribution of the species now and in future climates.
The prediction of areas currently suitable for the mosquito corresponds largely with the known cases of Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika found mainly in the Caribbean and Andean regions. Significant overall reductions of up to 30 per cent, however, are predicted by 2050 and 2070. Changes will affect regions differently, as some departments such as Nariño and Cauca are likely to face expansions.
While the models may accurately predict reduced climatic suitability of the vector, warming climates may shorten time required for larval maturing and also lead to faster and more frequent feeding of the female adult mosquito, thus increasing overall transmission risk.
The study concludes that more occurrence data is needed and that future studies should take into consideration not only climate, but also socioeconomic variables and data on virus transmission dynamics.