September 15 (UPI) —The West Nile virus spreads most rapidly in locations with average temperatures between 75 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to the new model, West Nile virus infections are likely to increase in some parts of the United States as the climate warms, and the threat disappears in other parts of the United States.
“It’s important to understand how temperature changes affect the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases as the climate warms,” lead researcher Marta Shockett said in a news release.
Shockett, currently a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA, did new research while he was a fellow at Stanford University.
In a new study whose results were published in the journal eLife on Tuesday, researchers modeled how temperature changes affect a range of three US mosquito species.
The three are responsible for the spread of six mosquito-borne viruses, including West Nile, St. Louis encephalitis, Eastern and Western equine encephalitis, Sindbis and Rift Valley fever viruses.
To build the model, scientists relied on laboratory experiments demonstrating the effects of temperature on various reproduction, development, survival, bite rate, and viral infectivity.
“Most of the viruses featured in this study come from temperate regions rather than the more commonly studied tropical diseases,” Shockett said.
“Comparing these results with those of tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue, we found that the optimal temperature and cold limits for virus spread were lower,” she said. “This means, as expected, that the virus spreads more efficiently at lower temperatures than in tropical diseases.”
Another study published earlier this month in Lancet Planetary Health showed that the threat of tropical diseases such as chikungunya and dengue is likely to increase as temperatures rise throughout sub-Saharan Africa. I did.
The latest research suggests that the United States is likely to experience similar changes in the threat of viral infections.
Currently, about 70% of the US population lives in places that are too cold to infect West Nile and other temperate viruses. About 30% live in areas where the West Nile does not spread because it gets too hot during the summer.
A new study shows that West Nile cases are likely to be lower in areas that are already hot in the summer due to viral infections, as temperatures continue to rise.
However, models have shown that higher temperatures are likely to increase the threat of mosquito-borne viruses over a significant part of the country. Simulations suggest that as temperatures rise, the mosquito-borne virus infection season also extends from autumn to spring.
“Climate variability can increase the transmission of West Nile and other mosquito-borne viruses,” said Erin Mordekai, an assistant professor of biology at Stanford University.
“But these diseases also depend on human contact with mosquitoes that come into contact with wildlife, so factors such as human land use, mosquito control, mosquito and virus adaptation, and the emergence of new viruses. It is difficult to predict the future of mosquito-borne diseases, “Mordekai said.
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