The parasites spread in freshwater areas such as rivers and lakes, where freshwater snails act as an intermediate host for their larvae. According to the new study, which was led by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, the habitat of these host snails is likely to shrink as climate change takes place.
The researchers modelled changes in the snails’ habitat from now to 2080 under a number of climate change scenarios, and predicted what those changes will mean for the parasite’s spread. The forecasts showed a significant reduction in the distribution of the main host snail, leading to a reduction of up to 19 per cent in the total geographical area of infection risk in Africa. However, they also identified a number of areas into which the disease could spread, particularly in Africa’s southern regions.
‘Our research shows that the expected effects of climate change will lead to a reduction in suitable habitats for four out of five species of host snails for the parasite. According to our models, several areas will become too hot for the snails in the future and new precipitation patterns will affect the freshwater areas where they live,’ said lead author, Anna-Sofie Stensgaard.
This story was published in the February 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine