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Climate change could increase foodborne illness by energising flies

Scientist have found that climate change could lead to ill being spread more frequently. Warmer and longer springs and summers could lead to house flies becoming friskier, which can lead to them spreading diarrhoea-causing bacteria to more places. As a result foodborne infections could increase with climate change.

Melanie Cousins, an epidemiologist from the University of Waterloo in Canada, has made a computer simulation and it focuses on how the warm weather surge in house flies and their activity affects the typical spring-summer rise in Campylobacter cases. Under a scenario where the summers are 2.5 degrees warmer than the average, cases of Campylobacter increased by 28%.  Campylobacter infections are most often caused by contaminated food, perhaps by a fly that’s strolled on other tainted food, an infected animal or faeces. Most people will recover from such infection within 10 days. The bacteria is the most common cause of gastrointestinal illness and there are over 3000 cases a year. To set up the simulation Cousins used data from 2005 on reported Campylobacter infections in Ontario to estimate transmission rates and fly birth and death rates. She then plugged the data into the simulator to predict the coming year’s infection rates. The results turned out to be very close to the real data which was made available in 2013.

This study is just the latest to highlight consequences of warming on insect behaviour.