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Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

Wolfson Fellow

Publication details for Dr Mark Booth

McCreesh, N., Nikulin, G. & Booth, M. (2015). Predicting the effects of climate change on Schistosoma mansoni transmission in eastern Africa. Parasites & Vectors 8(1): 4.

Author(s) from Durham


Survival and fitness attributes of free-living and sporocyst schistosome life-stages and their intermediate host snails are sensitive to water temperature. Climate change may alter the geographical distribution of schistosomiasis by affecting the suitability of freshwater bodies for hosting parasite and snail populations.

We have developed an agent-based model of the temperature-sensitive stages of the Schistosoma mansoni and intermediate host snail lifecycles. The model was run using low, moderate and high warming climate projections over eastern Africa. For each climate projection, eight model scenarios were used to determine the sensitivity of predictions to different relationships between air and water temperature, and different snail mortality rates. Maps were produced showing predicted changes in risk as a result of increasing temperatures over the next 20 and 50 years.

Baseline model output compared to prevalence data indicates suitable temperatures are necessary but not sufficient for both S. mansoni transmission and high infection prevalences. All else being equal, infection risk may increase by up to 20% over most of eastern Africa over the next 20 and 50 years. Increases may be higher in Rwanda, Burundi, south-west Kenya and eastern Zambia, and S. mansoni may become newly endemic in some areas. Results for 20-year projections are robust to changes in simulated intermediate host snail habitat conditions. There is greater uncertainty about the effects of different habitats on changes in risk in 50 years’ time.

Temperatures are likely to become suitable for increased S. mansoni transmission over much of eastern Africa. This may reduce the impact of control and elimination programmes. S. mansoni may also spread to new areas outside existing control programmes. We call for increased surveillance in areas defined as potentially suitable for emergent transmission.