. 24/7 Space News .
Study Links El Nino To Deadly South American Disease

Bartonellosis disease occurs in two forms, an acute life-threatening anemia and a chronic form which manifests as a wart-like appearance on the skin. Medical student Daniel Carrion is credited with demonstrating that the verruga skin lesions were merely another manifestation of the acute disease. He inoculated himself with material obtained from a "verruga lesion" and died 21 days later after developing the acute form of the disease. Bartonellosis is also known as Carrion's disease in honor of Daniels Carrion's ultimate sacrifice in furthering medical knowledge.
Greenbelt - Jan 21, 2002
In a groundbreaking collaborative study, NASA climatologists and U.S. military health specialists may have discovered a way to predict outbreaks of a deadly South American disease by observing sea surface temperature.

The researchers found that the worst outbreaks of Bartonellosis, an insect-borne disease highly fatal to humans, are closely related to the climate event El Nino. These outbreaks occur one to three months after the warming of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean that is associated with El Nino. If confirmed, the findings could enable health workers to stave off future epidemics before they begin.

"We now have strong evidence that there is a relationship between climate and Bartonellosis," said William K. Lau, head of the Climate Radiation Branch at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "It's not proven yet, but we are now one step closer."

The evidence could allow health officials to predict and combat epidemics far more effectively.

"It appears that the disease comes in weather-related cycles," said Larry Laughlin, Chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USUHS).

"If we can prove it, local health officials will be able to take preventive action when they know a 'bad year' is coming. This is a critical factor in developing countries where healthcare resources are limited."

The findings will be presented on January 17 at the American Meteorological Society Meeting in Orlando, Fla.

NASA earth scientists teamed with Laughlin's group at USUHS to study Bartonellosis, a disease that is characterized by life-threatening anemia. There is also a chronic form of the disease that manifests itself in blood-filled, wart-like skin lesions. Bartonellosis appears to be spreading from the mountain valleys of Peru into other regions of Andean South America.

"We think the disease is transmitted to humans by the bite of sand flies, much as malaria is by mosquitoes," Laughlin said. "Since the acute disease is fatal in 40 percent of cases if left untreated, it is important to identify the factors that encourage its spread."

The group studied two regions of Peru known as Caraz and Cusco. While the mountainous region of Caraz has a long history of Bartonellosis outbreaks, it was unknown in the more southern Cusco until recently. The deadliest recent outbreak was during the South American summer and fall months of December 1997 to May 1998.

Since the 1997-98 season was also the strongest El Nino event of the 20th century, the scientists compared sand fly breeding observations with weather data from NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite.

"We noticed that extremely high numbers of sand flies were collected during the 1997-98 season," Lau said. "That season had double the average number of Bartonellosis cases. The disease also spread to the southern part of the country, where it had not been seen before. The data lead us to believe that El Nino was the dominant factor in the epidemic."

Since indications of El Nino can be seen by satellites months before it affects the sand fly breeding season in South America, the scientists believe they can serve as an advance warning of an approaching epidemic year. But further study is necessary to strengthen the connection's validity.

"We were only able to use data between 1994 and 1999," Lau said. "There was only one El Nino event during that period, and that's not enough to establish a conclusive link. But we now think that, with further study, predictions of epidemics will be possible in the future."

The study marks the first time that researchers from the two widely divergent disciplines of climatology and disease prevention have collaborated.

"This is a prime example of how two organizations came together and did something that wouldn't have been possible otherwise," Laughlin said.

"Had we each been left to our own devices, NASA might still be focusing on predicting El Nino but not paying attention to disease, while we might be spraying the same amount of insecticide every year with poor effect on disease control. As a result of looking outside our own disciplines, though, we can now help more people while saving money and effort."

This research is supported by NASA's Earth Observing System/ Interdisciplinary Science investigation on hydrological processes and climate, and the Global Modeling and Analysis Program of NASA, Earth Science Enterprise and a NOAA grant.

Related Links
Goddard Space Flight Center
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

El Nino Predictions Up To Nine Months Ahead
Aspendale - Nov 26, 2001
The question of when and how hard the next El Nino or La Nina will hit can now be answered up to nine months ahead of the event, thanks to work by CSIRO's climate scientists.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.