Climate change and aspects of its impacts on human health were discussed at an Info Day recently organised at the premises of the Cyprus Institute (CyI), marking the completion of the project, Climate Impacts on Vector-Borne Diseases in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, with the acronym CIVMME. The project, implemented in collaboration with Imperial College (Prof. George Christophides) and the Ministry of Health, was funded by the Research Promotion Foundation of Cyprus. Experts from Greece and UK, together with scientists from the Atmospheric and Climate Modelling group at CyI, presented recent developments in the fields of climate modelling, human health impacts and mosquito biology, mainly focusing around the notorious cold-adapted range-expanding Asian tiger mosquito.
During the event, CyI researcher Dr Yiannis Proestos presented results on a global assessment of habitability for the Asian tiger mosquito, and the effects of changing climate on its potential range-expansion. Specifically, he elaborated on the use of global and regional climate models in relating global climate to global presence of the tiger mosquito. Based on these principles, and recent outbreaks of Chikungunya in Europe, he presented a global risk assessment for this disease and demonstrated that the risk, in fact, spans a wide range throughout Europe and the Middle East. As a result of the CIVMME project, Dr Kamil Erguler has developed a comprehensive and accurate biological model of the tiger's life cycle, which helps understanding its environmental dependence and predicting its global presence.
Under the influence of changing climate, both Cyprus and Europe are likely to hear more of such exotic mosquitos and associated diseases in the future. This is, of course, in addition to the most direct effects of a warmer climate. Specifically, Dr Giannakopoulos, from the National Observatory of Athens, presented the impacts of seasonal extremes of heat and humidity on human health and warned us on the elevated risks caused by predicted climate change.
Dr Kirmitzoglou, from Imperial College London, informed the audience about the recent developments in genomic and transcriptomic analysis of over 20 mosquito species mainly focusing on the computational resources being developed to ease access and analysis of large quantities of data. This will advance the understanding of the evolution of mosquito species, pointing out to their strength and weaknesses, leading to more cost-effective management strategies.
Dr Michaelakis, from Benaki Phytopathological Institute of Greece, presented to the participants the LIFE CONOPS project, on the surveillance of the tiger mosquito in Greece and the comprehensive regional risk assessment for the tiger's most preferred habitats. Upon completion of CyI's tiger mosquito surveillance in Cyprus within the framework of the CIVMME project, Dr Erguler reported no trace of this mosquito as of today; however, a group of potential disease carriers was identified and reported to the health authorities.