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Malaria rise in Africa parallels warming trends

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and other institutions conclude that the increase in the incidence of malaria in East Africa parallels warming trends over the last several decades. The new findings challenge the results of a study, "Climate change and resurgence of malaria in the East African highlands," which was previously published in the journal Nature. The original study, conducted by researchers from the University of Oxford, found "no significant changes" in long-term climate. The new analysis is published in the December 12, 2002, edition of Nature.

"Weather data is particularly sparse in East Africa, and the climate database used was originally created to pool information for analysis over large geographic areas. There is potential, therefore, for reaching spurious conclusions when using such climate data to study diseases at the local level," said Jonathan Patz, MD, MPH, lead author of the new analysis and assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He further added that, "Malaria is one of the world's most climate-sensitive diseases, and the African Highlands is an area of key importance for climate-malaria risk studies."

According to Dr. Patz and his colleagues, the previous study interpolated climate values to study locations at diverse elevations, differing on average by 575 meters, or approximating a 3 degrees Celsius temperature deviation. Dr. Patz and colleagues argue that the approach crucially ignored temperature variability, particularly essential within an area of such large altitudinal contrasts.

"The climate dataset used is not designed to reveal climate trends for specific locations. It's appropriate for up-scaling information to African regions, not down-scaling to small area locations. It cann
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Contact: Tim Parsons
paffairs@jhsph.edu
410-955-6878
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
11-Dec-2002


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