Climate Change, Water Insecurity, and Urban Dengue Transmission in Variable Landscapes

Principal Investigator: 

Climatic factors can influence the emergence and reemergence of infectious diseases through effects on the life cycle of the pathogens and arthropods that transmit them. Climate change may also indirectly influence disease transmission if human adaptation results in improved condition for pathogen persistence. For example, reduced rainfall and increased water insecurity induce households to reduce water consumption and prepare for increasing uncertainty in the availability of piped and rain-collected water. There is increasing evidence that such adaptation is affecting the incidence of household microbial diseases such as dengue fever (DF), caused by a virus transmitted by the domestic mosquito Aedes aegypti. Since this mosquito’s principal habitat is the domestic water storage vessel, which is virtually ubiquitous throughout tropical cities, reducing the vulnerability to dengue from the effects of climate change entails: (1) developing human adaptation strategies that simultaneously address the water needs of households and prevent mosquito production and (2) determining how the effects of adaptation vary across heterogeneous urban environments.

This project will use ongoing and completed field surveys in concert with community level ecological data in order understand the effects household adaptation to heightened water insecurity on the abundance and productivity of A. aegypti habitats. We will then use dynamic eco-social models of mosquito production and dengue transmission in order to integrate remotely sensed, field and prior experimental data and explore how reduction of A. aegypti production affects the risk of dengue epidemics in different strata of ambient temperature, housing density and urban spatial structure. As a result of this trans-disciplinary endeavor, we expect to develop sustained household water adaptation strategies and determine how their application should be modified across heterogeneous dengue endemic neighborhoods in order to maximize the suppression of dengue transmission.

Ronald Smith, Department Geology and Geophysics
Karen Seto, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
Alison Galvani, School of Public Health
Durland Fish, School of Public Health
Menachem Elimelech, Department of Chemical Engineering