Strong link between climate change and cholera outbreaks

September 25, 2002

Brussels, 24 Sep 2002

The link between climate change and cholera is three times as strong as first thought, according to researchers in Spain, Bangladesh and the USA.

The relationship between climate change and infectious diseases has been a source of controversy in the science world for many years. Now new research proves not only that this link exists, but also that it has become much stronger in recent years.

Researchers from the University of Barcelona, the University of Michigan and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh have completed two groundbreaking studies in this area - the first using climate and epidemic data from the Bangladesh region over the past two decades, which proved that the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) influences cholera cycles.

The second study expands this research with new statistical tests using data for the period 1893-1940. Researchers wanted to see whether the climatic influences had become more intense in recent decades. It revealed a very high correlation between the effects of ENSO and the occurrence of cholera in recent years - a correlation that was not evident in the historical data.

Cholera is an acute infectious disease of the small intestine, caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae resulting in diarrhoea, vomiting and leg cramps. It is transmitted via contaminated food and water and is present in more than 75 countries. In South-East Asia, the rise in regional temperature caused by El Nino leads to an increase in bacteria in salty water.

The recent research findings, together with the fact that people tend to have more contact with water during hot periods, may explain the link between ENSO and the outbreak of cholera. Infectious diseases are a major problem for developing countries, where they constitute 60% of the disease burden. The major killers are AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria, which account for 5 million deaths a year. The European Commission, through its Fifth Framework Programme, has invested €130 million in vital research to combat these diseases. A leaflet on the subject is available on the Research DG website.


More information: ets/com-diseases/en/index.html

IP/02/1249 |0|RAPID&lg=EN&display= ">The Commission announced 29 August its intention to support long-term partnerships between Europe and developing countries to develop new medicines and vaccines against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

DG Research ndex_en.html

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