Cholera: More Complicated Than You Think?

Cholera, long considered “a disease of filth carried in sewage,” is a little more complicated than that, writes the science journalist Sonia Shah. “[R]esearch on cholera’s natural habitat and links to the climate have revealed a revolutionary new understanding of the disease as one shaped just as much by environment, hydrology, and weather patterns as by poor sanitation,” writes Shah. “And as temperatures continue to rise this century, cholera outbreaks may become increasingly common, with the bacteria growing more rapidly in warmer waters.” In fact, some scientists believe they’ve already found evidence of climate change’s effect on cholera: “Over the past 30 years, El Nino events in the Bay of Bengal – characterized, in part, by warmer sea surface temperatures – have increased, paralleling a rise in cholera cases in Bangladesh. The World Health Organization calls it ‘one of the first pieces of evidence that warming trends are affecting human infectious diseases.’”

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  1. Ian Kemmish says:

    More complex even than that….. increased severity of el Nino events also leads to increased flooding in Bangladesh, and would therefore have lead to more cases even if the bacteria were indifferent to warmer conditions.

    I would hope it’s clear even to a columnist that one needs lots of measurement and some modelling to establish what proportion of the increase in cases is due to the increase in flooding, and what proportion is due to increase viability of the bacteria.

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