photo of diseased coral

On August 2, Science published a special issue on "Natural Systems in Changing Climates," including a major review by Drew Harvell (EEB) 

Intersections of Infectious Disease and Climate Change

August 6, 2013

photo of diseased coral

On August 2, Science published a special issue on "Natural Systems in Changing Climates," including a major review by Drew Harvell (EEB), former ACSF associate director, and four coauthors. “Climate Change and Infectious Diseases: From Evidence to a Predictive Framework” analyzes research linking climate change and increased disease risk, particularly in humans.

The paper calls for more research - critical priorities include learning to predict more accurately how climate change affects disease severity and distribution and understanding how these interactions impact human societies when combined with other consequences of climate change. An abstract follows: 

Scientists have long predicted large-scale responses of infectious diseases to climate change, giving rise to a polarizing debate, especially concerning human pathogens for which socioeconomic drivers and control measures can limit the detection of climate-mediated changes. Climate change has already increased the occurrence of diseases in some natural and agricultural systems, but in many cases, outcomes depend on the form of climate change and details of the host-pathogen system. In this review, we highlight research progress and gaps that have emerged during the past decade and develop a predictive framework that integrates knowledge from ecophysiology and community ecology with modeling approaches. Future work must continue to anticipate and monitor pathogen biodiversity and disease trends in natural ecosystems and identify opportunities to mitigate the impacts of climate-driven disease emergence.

Read more in Science.

In 2010, the Atkinson Center and NSF sponsored a related conference, facilitated by Harvell at Cornell on “Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases."