Environment and Health

About our research

 Image showing a group of cattle in Madagascar standing in water

This theme addresses the influence of the environment and climate on the transmission of disease to animals and people.  As both environment and climate are expected to change in the future, we are also developing methods to predict how diseases will respond.  Our research allows policy makers to address issues raised by global change, and for the world to be better prepared for disease outbreaks of the future.

About sixty percent of pathogens of humans and livestock appear to be influenced by climate; those influences can affect where diseases are found, when they occur and how severe outbreaks are. For example:

Malaria occurs mostly in the tropics because the warmer conditions are favourable for the mosquitoes that spread the disease;

Common colds occur most frequently in winter; one explanation is that colder weather encourages people to crowd together indoors in less well ventilated houses;

Epidemics of a devastating horse disease called African horse sickness occur in South Africa during times of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, when heavy rains sometimes follow a long drought;

The wetter conditions of western Britain are better for the survival of Fasciola parasites on pastures. Sheep in these areas are likely to acquire large numbers of these flukes, increasing the likelihood that they get acute (often fatal), rather than chronic, liver fluke disease.