- A study has warned that climate change could also spark diarrhoea outbreaks
- Experts say campylobacter bacteria spreads more quickly in high temperatures
From pressures on mental health to increased hunger, climate change has already been linked to several concerning health risks.
Now, a study has warned that climate change could also spark more diarrhoea outbreaks.
Researchers from the University of Surrey say that campylobacter – a bacteria that causes food poisoning – will spread more quickly amid rising temperatures.
‘We do not fully understand why this may be,’ said Dr Giovanni Lo Iacono, lead author of the study.
From pressures on mental health to increased hunger, climate change has already been linked to several concerning health risks. Now, a study has warned that climate change could also spark more diarrhoea outbreaks (stock image)
Campylobacter is one of the four key global causes of diarrhoeal diseases worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation.
It leads to an infection called campylobacteriosis, which can cause diarrhoea and stomach pains.
Previous studies have shown that the main route of transmission is foodborne.
However, in their new study, the researchers set out to investigate whether or not climate change will influence its spread.
The team analysed data from approximately one million cases of campylobacteriosis in England and Wales over a 20-year period.
They then compared this data to the weather over the same period.
Their analysis revealed how incidences of the disease were consistent below temperatures of 46F (8C).
However, for every 9F (5C) rise in temperature, there was a sharp increase in infection.
The team also discovered a link with humidity and day length, with high infection levels when water vapour in the air was at 75 to 80 per cent.
Campylobacter (artist’s impression) is one of the four key global causes of diarrhoeal diseases worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation
While the reason for this remains unclear, the researchers have a few leading theories.
‘It could be that warm weather increases the survival and spread of pathogenic bacteria (so the weather causes the disease),’ Dr Lo Iacono said.
‘Or alternatively it could be people’s behaviour and how they socialise during such periods.’
The researchers hope the findings will help to identify areas vulnerable to potential outbreaks and ensure they have the resources available to treat people.
‘We now have a detailed description of how the weather affects the disease, and the next step is to understand the why,’ Dr Lo Iacono added.
‘Importantly, through our transparent and conceptually simple approach, we can now tell the risk of getting the disease when we know the recent local weather.
‘This information is invaluable, as illnesses such as campylobacteriosis not only cause discomfort to individuals, but have enormous societal impacts, with people having to call in sick to work and puts extra pressure on health services across the world.’