Predicting vector-borne diseases in climate change era

September 04, 2013 10:23 pm | Updated June 02, 2016 09:14 am IST

Climate change affects in many aspects including health. Photo: K.R. Deepak

Climate change affects in many aspects including health. Photo: K.R. Deepak

How will wind strength impact the migration and affect the flight range of mosquitoes? These and several other parameters are being studied at the micro-environmental level by scientists as part of a national project on climate change to forecast spectrum of vector-borne diseases.

With climate change influencing all aspects, including health and agriculture, CSIR through its network of institutions is seeking to develop sustainable mitigation strategies at local level. As part of this, a national project — Integrated Analysis for Impact, Mitigation and Sustainability — has been initiated to leverage multi-disciplinary expertise available at CSIR for developing suitable models by taking into account various geographical variations.

While the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology at Hyderabad has been tasked to develop forecast models in relation to vector-borne diseases, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology is looking into climate change impact on arsenic contamination. Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants is working on climate impact on agriculture. Bangalore-based 4PI (Four Paradigm Institute — formerly CMMACS) is one of the main partners in the project.

Apart from archival information on climate change, there was a need for generating critical data through targeted observations at the micro level at regular intervals for developing sustainable models, according to Dr. U.S.N. Murthy, Head of Biology of IICT and the principal investigator in study on impact of climate change in relation to vector-borne diseases.

Through aerodynamic study of the mosquitoes, the scientists have been able to estimate the flight range and distance they cover. This in turn would help in mosquito control in the endemic zone. For instance, the frequency rate of a male mosquito’s wing beats is 600 per second, while that of a female mosquito is 400 per second. With the female mosquito using less kinetic energy, it would travel greater distance. By estimating the distance travel, the residual spray could be taken up in the villages that fall along its flight path. Such a measure would significantly reduce transmission rate of vector borne-diseases, he added.

A network of 40 meteorological towers has been set up across the country in the form of Climate Observation and Modelling Network under IAIMS. Each of the 30-metre tall towers is equipped with three sensors at different heights to provide data on several parameters such as temperature, humidity, sub-surface temperature, wind speed, wind direction, soil wetness and +rainfall.

The towers have devices to measure soil heat flux, cloud height, air temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed, water vapour and carbon dioxide.

According to another IICT scientist, a weather-based predictive model, which was developed for malaria in Arunachal Pradesh by IICT scientists, has now been extended to the whole country. It showed that temperature was one of the highly influencing factors in the incidence of the disease. They have now started work on the impact of climate change vis-à-vis dengue.

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