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Global Warming and Its Effect on Dermatology and Plants

Nicola Balato, MD; Cataldo Patruno, MD; Francesco Paolo D’Errico, MD; Anna Balato, MD
Arch Dermatol. 2008;144(8):1016. doi:10.1001/archderm.144.8.1016.
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Global warming or climate tropicalization is the cause of increasing temperature and humidity in the temperate areas of Europe and North America. Climatic factors influence the emergence and reemergence of infectious diseases by shifting the geographic range of the insect vector and lengthening the reproductive cycles of insects. Climatic changes also affect disease transmission by shortening the incubation period of pathogens. It has been reported that a 3°C warming in the United States could increase the range of some mosquito species that can carry the dengue and yellow fever viruses.1 In the past 2 decades, there has also been an increase in tourists who travel to tropical areas and in immigration to Europe and North America from tropical countries. Human travel and migration are thought to cause the increasing incidence of tropical parasitic diseases in Europe and North America.2 This phenomenon also affects plants. In the case of the citrus leaf miner, a moth responsible for a disease that has affected Italian citrus plants for the past 10 years, the disease expression is surprisingly similar to human dermatologic traits. The citrus leaf miner disease is caused by infestation of young leaves by Phyllocnistis citrella and is characterized by serpentine mines on the ventral leaf surface, causing curling of the leaves and difficulty in removing them. The citrus leaf miner disease is very similar to cutaneous larva migrans, a disease commonly found in tropical and subtropical geographic areas that is caused by various parasites (Ancylostoma braziliense, Ancylostoma caninum, Uncinaria stenocephala, Bunostomum phlebotomum, and other rare etiologic agents). The similarity extends beyond the clinical appearance (Figure) to a recent increase in the frequency of both in the area of Naples, Italy.3 Climate tropicalization can be hypothesized to be at least one of the causes in the increase of human (dermatophytes and molds) and plant mycoses (ie, the emerging infection by Spilocaea oleagina in olive plants and fruit moniliasis). Analyzing the role of climate in the emergence of such diseases will require interdisciplinary cooperation among physicians, climatologists, biologists, and politicians. Increased disease surveillance, integrated modeling, and the use of geographically based data systems will help to understand the links between changes in climate and ecology and the emergence of disease and its dissemination, which can ultimately help optimize preventive strategies.

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A, Cutaneous larva migrans; B, citrus leaf miner in the leaf of a citrus plant.

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