Effect of climate change on vector-borne disease risk in the UK

Jolyon Medlock*, Stephen Leach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

186 Citations (Scopus)


During the early part of the 21st century, an unprecedented change in the status of vector-borne disease in Europe has occurred. Invasive mosquitoes have become widely established across Europe, with subsequent transmission and outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya virus. Malaria has re-emerged in Greece, and West Nile virus has emerged throughout parts of eastern Europe. Tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, continue to increase, or, in the case of tick-borne encephalitis and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever viruses, have changed their geographical distribution. From a veterinary perspective, the emergence of Bluetongue and Schmallenberg viruses show that northern Europe is equally susceptible to transmission of vector-borne disease. These changes are in part due to increased globalisation, with intercontinental air travel and global shipping transport creating new opportunities for invasive vectors and pathogens. However, changes in vector distributions are being driven by climatic changes and changes in land use, infrastructure, and the environment. In this Review, we summarise the risks posed by vector-borne diseases in the present and the future from a UK perspective, and assess the likely effects of climate change and, where appropriate, climate-change adaptation strategies on vector-borne disease risk in the UK. Lessons from the outbreaks of West Nile virus in North America and chikungunya in the Caribbean emphasise the need to assess future vector-borne disease risks and prepare contingencies for future outbreaks. Ensuring that adaptation strategies for climate change do not inadvertently exacerbate risks should be a primary focus for decision makers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-730
Number of pages10
JournalThe Lancet Infectious Diseases
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
JM was partly funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Environmental Change and Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in partnership with Public Health England (PHE), and in collaboration with the University of Exeter, University College London, and the Met Office; and partly funded by the NIHR HPRU on Emerging Infections and Zoonoses at the University of Liverpool in partnership with PHE and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Health Service, the NIHR, the Department of Health, or PHE. The authors would also like to acknowledge the efforts and contributions from the PHE Medical Entomology group: Alexander Vaux, Kayleigh Hansford, Maaike Pietzsch, and Ben Cull.


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