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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Climate change accelerates winter transmission of a zoonotic pathogen

Sipari, Saana; Khalil, Hussein; Magnusson, Magnus; Evander, Magnus; Hornfeldt, Birger; Ecke, Frauke


Many zoonotic diseases are weather sensitive, raising concern how their distribution and outbreaks will be affected by climate change. At northern high latitudes, the effect of global warming on especially winter conditions is strong. By using long term monitoring data (1980-1986 and 2003-2013) from Northern Europe on temperature, precipitation, an endemic zoonotic pathogen (Puumala orthohantavirus, PUUV) and its reservoir host (the bank vole, Myodes glareolus), we show that early winters have become increasingly wet, with a knock-on effect on pathogen transmission in its reservoir host population. Further, our study is the first to show a climate change effect on an endemic northern zoonosis, that is not induced by increased host abundance or distribution, demonstrating that climate change can also alter transmission intensity within host populations. Our results suggest that rainy early winters accelerate PUUV transmission in bank voles in winter, likely increasing the human zoonotic risk in the North.


Climate change; Myodes glareolus; North; Puumala orthohantavirus; Winter; Zoonosis

Published in

AMBIO :: A Journal of the Human Environment
2022, Volume: 51, number: 3, pages: 508-517
Publisher: SPRINGER