Climate change impacts on West Nile virus transmission in a global context

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West Nile virus (WNV), the most widely distributed virus of the encephalitic flaviviruses, is a vector-borne pathogen of global importance. The transmission cycle exists in rural and urban areas where the virus infects birds, humans, horses and other mammals. Multiple factors impact the transmission and distribution of WNV, related to the dynamics and interactions between pathogen, vector, vertebrate hosts and environment. Hence, among other drivers, weather conditions have direct and indirect influences on vector competence (the ability to acquire, maintain and transmit the virus), on the vector population dynamic and on the virus replication rate within the mosquito, which are mostly weather dependent. The importance of climatic factors (temperature, precipitation, relative humidity and winds) as drivers in WNV epidemiology is increasing under conditions of climate change. Indeed, recent changes in climatic conditions, particularly increased ambient temperature and fluctuations in rainfall amounts, contributed to the maintenance (endemization process) of WNV in various locations in southern Europe, western Asia, the eastern Mediterranean, the Canadian Prairies, parts of the USA and Australia. As predictions show that the current trends are expected to continue, for better preparedness, any assessment of future transmission of WNV should take into consideration the impacts of climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1665
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


  • Climate change
  • Vector-borne diseases
  • West Nile virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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