Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

The Influence of Climate Change on Waterborne Disease and Legionella: A Review

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

The Influence of Climate Change on Waterborne Disease and Legionella: A Review

Article excerpt

Climate Change

Global warming: causes and impacts

Climate change and warming is indisputable and represents one of the most serious environmental threats on a global scale.1,2 The aims of this article are to discuss the reasons behind climate change and to review the impact that increased temperatures will have on waterborne disease. Average global surface temperatures over land and ocean have increased by 0.85°C (0.65°C–1.06°C) between 1880 and 2012, and the current trend of increasing temperatures is of particular significance because there is a >95% probability that it has resulted from human activity since the mid-20th century and it is proceeding at an unprecedented rate.3,4 The CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases result primarily from human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation and other land-use changes. Over the 20th century, half of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions since the beginning of the industrial revolution occurred between 1970 and 2011.5

Since 2001, 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred, with 2016 confirmed as the warmest year, globally, on record and was 1°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures.4,6 Such a run of high temperatures is extremely unlikely to have occurred in the absence of human-caused climate change.7 Marine temperate regions have been the most seriously affected with all European seas having warmed during the past few decades at four- to sevenfold the global rate.8 The recent intergovernmental report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified a number of different consequences that will occur due to climate change including an increase in extreme weather events which are already becoming more frequent, intense and longer in duration and will continue to increase in response to the changing climate.9,10 Indeed, predictive modelling under different climate change scenarios suggests that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future, with considerable variability across geographic locations.9

The Impact of Global Warming on Water and Waterborne Pathogens

In the short term, increases in temperature combined with rising sea levels can be expected to cause contamination of drinking water with more saltwater intrusion into groundwater-serving coastal communities with a predicted 500-mm increase in sea level by 2100.10

Climatic change has a major impact on microbial species distribution.11 Microbial communities are extremely complex and are composed of a range of microorganisms with very different tolerances to external stimuli including temperature changes which may be advantageous to some while having little or no change on other species.12 Studies have shown that shifts in species diversity and interactions in response to climate change alter biodiversity and the function of terrestrial ecosystems.2,13,14

The increased severity and number of extreme climatic conditions15 will not only impact on the quantity of water but will also be accompanied by changes in microbial communities and species interactions.13–17 Such extreme conditions may also result in an increasing number and broad range of different pathogens and their associated infections.16–24

Impact on enteric pathogens

For example, studies have demonstrated that extreme temperature and precipitation events can be associated with the increased risk of gastrointestinal and diarrheal diseases due to the presence of faecal–oral pathogens.25–29 Several studies have documented an increased risk of infections, for example, Escherichia coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella and Shigella; viruses including norovirus and the hepatitis A virus; and infections caused by protozoa such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia associated with seasonality, daily maximum temperatures and also precipitation. …

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