Britain faces malaria risk as climate change sees mosquitoes thriving in garden water butts

 

ENVIRONMENT EDITOR

A A A

Britain faces an increased threat from “tropical” diseases like malaria and West Nile virus – because of the increasing popularity of garden water butts.

The warming weather associated with climate change has seen many green-fingered Britons install water containers in their gardens. These water butts, together with the rising ambient temperature, have greatly increased mosquito numbers in the UK.

The trend is especially marked in urban areas, with high concentrations of garden water containers. This is more damaging because it brings the mosquitoes into closer contact with people, according to a new study by the University of Reading.

“Water butts collect rain from roof guttering along with vegetation, animal detritus... providing both a habitat and food resource for mosquito larvae,” warned the report by Amanda Callaghan and Susannah Townroe.

Mosquitoes in the UK are free of diseases that can infect humans but the report’s authors say that the rising number of insects breeding in urban areas increases the chances of a potential outbreak of malaria and the less dangerous West Nile Virus in future. This is because the soaring number of water butts has had a marked impact on urban mosquito populations, particularly the An. plumbeus species, which is shifting from being a mostly rural species to an increasingly urban one.

“The relatively high abundance of An. plumbeus during the late season of 2012, and dramatic increase in abundance from the previous year is notable,” the report said, noting a similar trend to that seen in Continental Europe.

Although each water butt only provides 50l to 25l of water, the sheer number of them spread across the UK creates a network of easily accessible prime mosquito larvae habitat.

This, in combination with the “urban heat island” effect, which can increase the temperature in large UK cities by as much as 8.9C compared with surrounding rural areas, “may favour increased mosquito larvae production in urban habitats”, the report determined.

“We knew that there was an urban heat island effect, and changes in temperature have been known to cause changes in mosquito behaviour and – in some regions, such as southern Europe – diseases have crept into these countries because mosquitoes have changed their behaviour,” Dr Callaghan told the BBC.

“The main finding is that these mosquitoes are right next to people’s houses and the Anopheles mosquito we found is a human-biting species and it can transmit malaria,” Dr Callaghan said.

“Therefore, if someone comes back from their holiday with malaria and they get bitten, it could be transmitted to another person – and that is how you get outbreaks.

“The chances of there being a malaria epidemic in this country at present are relatively low because there has not been secondary malaria here since the 1950s... But it’s worth keeping an eye on.”

She said that the “more mosquitoes that can transmit malaria living by you then that chance increases”. Secondary malaria refers to someone catching malaria from another person who has also been bitten by a mosquito.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people Ex-wife of John Lennon has died at her home in Spain
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a security software com...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing / Sales Co-ordinator - OTE £25,000+

£10000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of staffing and r...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen Porter

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court is seeking...

Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court i...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?