Climate change and water-related infectious diseases

Gordon Nichols, Iain Lake, Clare Heaviside

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
61 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Water-related, including waterborne, diseases remain important sources of morbidity and mortality worldwide, but particularly in developing countries. The potential for changes in disease associated with predicted anthropogenic climate changes make water-related diseases a target for prevention. Methods: We provide an overview of evidence on potential future changes in water-related disease associated with climate change. Results: A number of pathogens are likely to present risks to public health, including cholera, typhoid, dysentery, leptospirosis, diarrhoeal diseases and harmful algal blooms (HABS). The risks are greatest where the climate effects drive population movements, conflict and disruption, and where drinking water supply infrastructure is poor. The quality of evidence for water-related disease has been documented. Conclusions: We highlight the need to maintain and develop timely surveillance and rapid epidemiological responses to outbreaks and emergence of new waterborne pathogens in all countries. While the main burden of waterborne diseases is in developing countries, there needs to be both technical and financial mechanisms to ensure adequate quantities of good quality water, sewage disposal and hygiene for all. This will be essential in preventing excess morbidity and mortality in areas that will suffer from substantial changes in climate in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number385
Number of pages60
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2018


  • Cholera
  • Climate change
  • Cryptosporidiosis
  • Legionnaires' disease
  • Leptospirosis
  • Natural environment
  • Public health
  • Risks
  • Waterborne disease

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