Parasitic worms love warm, humid climates, and for years they were limited to specific regions of the world. Now, thanks to climate change, parasitic worms are finding their way to new places that have temperatures on the rise. Climate change is defined as any significant, long-term change in the expected weather patterns in a specific region of the world. Climate change has created more favorable conditions for the spread of parasites, as certain regions that were once colder and unfavorable are becoming warmer and more habitable for intermediate hosts and parasitic worms.
The Migration of Parasites and Intermediate Hosts
Most parasitic worms need a hot, warm climate in order to continue to reproduce and infect new hosts. They do not thrive in cold, frigid conditions, so rising temperatures due to climate change have significantly changed where parasitic worms can live.
Parasites are often found in tropical and subtropical places because many different species can live and thrive there. Many parasites require an intermediate host, or an organism that supports the immature form of the parasite while it grows, such as a mosquito or a snail. Mosquitoes like these areas because they need a climate with high precipitation for breeding sites. Additionally, snail populations depend on rainfall with moderate to warm temperatures. This information is key because, without these intermediate hosts, a parasite could not mature and become infective. Once a parasitic worm is ingested by one of these insects or mollusks, the worms can grow in the host’s body before being transferred to a primary host, such as a dog or a cat.
Since intermediate hosts such as mosquitoes and snails also prefer warmer subtropical or tropical climates, they too can start to migrate to new warmer areas. The movement of these intermediate hosts can create a real problem. With more and more regions reflecting these warmer conditions, the abundance of insects and mollusks can increase, resulting in an increase in parasites that could potentially infect dogs and cats.
Warmer Temperatures and Soil
After infecting a primary host such as a dog, many parasitic worms are excreted in a dog’s feces and left in the environment. These parasites that live in the soil for part of their life cycle are being impacted by climate change as well. Hookworms, for example, live in the soil before infecting a host and certain soil components can be altered by climate change. The higher temperatures in the soil can cause worm larvae to develop faster, as well as a faster development within the eggs. This increase in development speed can increase the rate of infection, as there is less time that the worms are inactive. Additionally, eggs and larvae need rich, moist soil in order to survive, and increased precipitation and humidity levels could allow for better survival rates of parasitic worms.
So What Can You Do To Prevent Climate Change?
Below are 6 ways that you can reduce climate change and help to prevent the global spread of parasitic worms due to rising temperatures.
- Change your daily commute. Try riding your bike, taking the bus, or carpooling to get around. Transportation accounts for a significant amount of polluting emissions.
- Conserve energy in your home. Wash your clothing in cold or warm water (not hot), use energy-efficient light bulbs, and unplug electronics when you are not using them. All of these practices will save you money, too!
- Install solar panels. Solar panels work by absorbing sunlight and converting the sun’s rays into usable energy for your home or business.
- Plant a tree. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gasses such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide from the air and release oxygen in return.
- Recycle. Recycling is a cost-effective and Eco-friendly process that eliminates waste and does not emit greenhouse gasses into the environment. Separate glass, paper, and plastics from your trash and place them into recycling instead.
- Educate yourself and others. It is so important to learn about climate change and how it impacts our world. There are so many things that we can do to preserve Earth, so take this opportunity to learn more about our planet and to educate others!