Scientists use climate, population changes to predict diseases

admin   •   June 14, 2016   •   3073

A mosquito is seen under a microscope at the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District in Santa Fe Springs, California, U.S., May 18, 2016. REUTERS/LUCY NICHOLSON - RTSFJ85

A mosquito is seen under a microscope at the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District in Santa Fe Springs, California, U.S., May 18, 2016.
REUTERS/LUCY NICHOLSON – RTSFJ85

British scientists say they have developed a model that can predict outbreaks of zoonotic diseases – those such as Ebola and Zika that jump from animals to humans – based on changes in climate.

Describing their model as “a major improvement in our understanding of the spread of diseases from animals to people”, the researchers said it could help governments prepare for and respond to disease outbreaks, and to factor in their risk when making policies that might affect the environment.

“Our model can help decision-makers assess the likely impact (on zoonotic disease) of any interventions or change in national or international government policies, such as the conversion of grasslands to agricultural lands,” said Kate Jones, a professor who co-led the study at University College London’s genetics, evolution and environment department.

The model also has the potential to look at the impact of global change on many diseases at once, she said.

Around 60 to 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases are so-called “zoonotic events”, where animal diseases jump into people. Bats in particular are known to carry many zoonotic viruses.

The Ebola and Zika viruses, now well known, both originated in wild animals, as did many others including Rift Valley fever and Lassa fever that affect thousands already and are predicted to spread with changing environmental factors.

Jones’ team used the locations of 408 known Lassa fever outbreaks in West Africa between 1967 and 2012 and the changes in land use and crop yields, temperature and rainfall, behavior and access to health care.

They also identified the sub-species of the multimammate rat that transmits Lassa virus to humans, to map its location against ecological factors.

The model was then developed using this information along with forecasts of climate change, future population density and land-use change.

“Our approach successfully predicts outbreaks of individual diseases by pairing the changes in the host’s distribution as the environment changes with the mechanics of how that disease spreads from animals to people,” said David Redding, who co-led the study.

“It allows us to calculate how often people are likely to come into contact with disease-carrying animals and their risk of the virus spilling over.”

The team tested their new model using Lassa fever, a disease that is endemic across West Africa and is caused by a virus passing to people from rats. Like Ebola, Lassa causes hemorrhagic fever and can be fatal.

The study, published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, tested the model with Lassa and found the number of infected people will double to 406,000 by 2070 from some 195,000 due to climate change and a growing human population.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; editing by Andrew Roche)

Locusts swarm across parts of India, attacking agricultural lands

UNTV News   •   May 26, 2020

Huge swarms of locusts took over the skies of Northern and Central India on Monday (May 25) and Sunday (May 24), affecting agricultural lands.

The pests were mostly seen across large states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

On Sunday, actions were taken in the city of Mandsaur, in central India, to contain the swarm by spraying pesticides.

One of the deadliest pests for farms produce, locusts are known to destroy crops and vegetables, and whatever they find in their way, in search of food.

Animals also get affected by eating the same leaves as the locusts and can suffer from diarrhoea.

Locust swarms are not new in East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. But climate scientists say erratic weather linked to climate change has created ideal conditions for the insects to surge in numbers not seen in a quarter of a century.

If allowed to breed unchecked in favourable conditions, locusts can form huge swarms that can strip trees and crops over vast areas. (Reuters)

(Production: ANI, Hanna Rantala, Gabriela Boccaccio)

Last Congo Ebola patient discharged with end of outbreak in sight

UNTV News   •   March 4, 2020

The last patient being treated for Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo was discharged on Tuesday (March 3), the World Health Organization (WHO) said, bringing the 19-month-old outbreak closer than ever to an end.

Masika Semida’s release from hospital in the eastern city of Beni, feted by hospital staff who sang, danced and drummed, marks the first time there has been no active cases since the outbreak was declared in August 2018.

In that period, the virus has killed 2,264 people and infected nearly 1,200 more, making it the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history. Only the 2013-16 epidemic in West Africa was deadlier, killing more than 11,000.

Congo has now gone 14 days without any new confirmed cases. The outbreak can be declared over once 42 days have passed without a new case – equivalent to two cycles of 21 days, the maximum incubation period for the virus. (Reuters Connect)

(Production: Edwin Waita, Erikas Mwisi, Louisa Naks)

Trial drug for 2019 nCoV now ready to be administered to over 700 patients

Maris Federez   •   February 7, 2020

China’s health authorities have announced that registration for clinical trials on a potential antiviral drug for the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has been approved.

The antiviral drug called “Remdesivir” will be made available to the more than 700 patients that tested positive of the 2019 nCoV in Wuhan City, China for its clinical trial.

Authorities said that aside from the 2019 nCoV, the drug can also be used to fight Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and even Ebola infection.

Remdesivir was developed by the American pharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences.

China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, the National Health Commission, and the National Medical Products Administration support the approval of the said drug. —(details from Grace Casin) /mbmf

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