Could Mosquitoes Bring Tropical Diseases to the UK?

March 24th, 2015
Could Mosquitoes Bring Tropical Diseases to the UK?

Experts have warned that mosquitoes could bring tropical diseases including dengue fever and West Nile virus to the UK.

Writing in the Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal, experts warned that the milder climates of the UK could provide an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, increasing the risk of some infectious diseases.

Representatives from Public Health England have already started to monitor the places mosquitoes commonly lay eggs and they are keeping an eye on the relationship between climate change and mosquito numbers.

According to scientists from the emergency response department of Public Health England, who were responsible for compiling the report, there are currently around 34 different species of mosquito living in the UK. In recent years, warmer climates in Europe and parts of Africa have attracted mosquitoes, contributing to a more widespread risk of malaria. Cases of malaria have been recorded in Greece, while West Nile virus has been found in parts of Eastern Europe and there have been cases of an infectious disease called chikungunya in Italy and France.

Experts say that mosquitoes and ticks are sensitive to changes in climate and milder winters could prevent mosquitoes from being killed off, increasing the chances of reproduction. The team believes that warmer weather in the UK in the future could provide favourable breeding conditions for a type of mosquito called the Asian tiger mosquito, which carries the viruses that cause chikungunya and dengue fever.

Dr Jolyon Medlock, head of medical entomology at Public Health England and co-author of the study, said that invertebrates are affected by seasonal change and they reproduce faster at warmer temperatures, which means that they won’t be killed off by mild winter conditions. Asian tiger mosquitoes have arrived in the UK from Asia as a result of global tyre trade and Dr Medlock has called for improved systems of monitoring the imports to reduce the risk of a spread of disease in the future.

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