There is a growing interest in the role of climate change in driving the spread of waterborne infectious diseases, such as those caused by bacterial pathogens. One particular group of pathogenic bacteria – vibrios – are a globally important cause of diseases in humans and aquatic animals. These Gram-negative bacteria, including the species Vibrio vulnificus, Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio cholerae, grow in warm, low-salinity waters, and their abundance in the natural environment mirrors ambient environmental temperatures. In a rapidly warming marine environment, there are greater numbers of human infections, and most notably outbreaks linked to extreme weather events such as heatwaves in temperate regions such as Northern Europe. Because the growth of pathogenic vibrios in the natural environment is largely dictated by temperature, we argue that this group of pathogens represents an important and tangible barometer of climate change in marine systems. We provide a number of specific examples of the impacts of climate change on this group of bacteria and their associated diseases, and discuss advanced strategies to improve our understanding of these emerging waterborne diseases through the integration of microbiological, genomic, epidemiological, climatic, and ocean sciences.
- climate change
- infectious diseases