How does climate change affect mosquito-borne diseases?

April 06, 2020

Paola Carrillo-Bustamante, staff scientist in the research unit of Elena Levashina, has successfully raised funds from the Klaus Tschira Boost Fund. Paola now has €80,000 available for two years to investigate how environmental changes influence the development of mosquito larvae and thus affect the transmission rate of diseases. The Klaus Tschira Boost Fund also offers Paola many career-supporting and -enhancing measures, such as peer mentoring and counselling and training opportunities.

Mosquitoes are among the most dangerous animals in the world. They transmit serious human diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. So far, their spread has been limited mainly to tropical and subtropical regions. Climate change and global warming, however, are changing these habitats and allowing mosquitoes to spread to other regions of the world.

So, the question arises: How will mosquito species spread in the future? And what are the climatic and ecological factors that favor the development of mosquitoes and their ability to transmit disease?

With her project, Paola Carrillo-Bustamante wants to contribute to answering these questions. Her focus is on the development of mosquito larvae, which mostly occurs in stagnant waters. Paola focuses on three main components of the larval habitat: temperature, pH value and nutrient content of the water. She wants to investigate how changes in these three fundamental components affect the larvae's ability to live and develop. In the study, the larvae of two mosquito species are studied in parallel: Anopheles gambiae (host to human malaria parasites) and Aedes aegypti (host to dengue and zika viruses).

In her project, Paola plans to combine laboratory experiments and field research with mathematical analyses and computer-based modelling. Her research approach is innovative and therefore also highly risky - the Klaus Tschira Boost Fund is funding precisely such projects. Paola will now receive a total of € 80,000 from this fund for two years. This funding also gives Paola the opportunity to intensify her research cooperation with Dr. Mario Grijalva at the Center of Research on Health in Latin America (CISeAL) in Quito, Ecuador.

Paola's goal is to develop computer simulations that can be used to predict the effects of climate change on the dynamics of mosquito populations. This in turn can help to draw conclusions about the transmission potential of parasites and viruses and plan appropriate preventive measures to protect human health.

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