The effects of climate change on infectious diseases with cutaneous manifestations

Int J Womens Dermatol. 2021 Jan;7(1):8-16. doi: 10.1016/j.ijwd.2020.07.005. Epub 2020 Jul 22.


Background: Anthropogenic climate change affects the burden of infectious diseases via several interconnected mechanisms. In recent years, there has been greater awareness of the ways in which climate-sensitive infectious diseases pose a growing threat to global public health.

Objective: This study aimed to categorize and describe the effects of climate change on infectious diseases with skin manifestations.

Methods: A scoping review of the MEDLINE and PubMed online databases for climate-sensitive infections was performed in February and March 2020. A representative selection of conditions with skin manifestations was included in this review.

Results: Several representative climate-sensitive infectious diseases were identified in each of the following categories: vector-borne infectious diseases, infectious diseases associated with extreme weather events, and infectious diseases linked to human migration.

Conclusion: Climate variables directly influence the survival and reproduction of infectious microorganisms, their vectors, and their animal reservoirs. Due to sustained warmer temperatures at higher latitudes, climate change has expanded the geographic range of certain pathogenic microbes. More frequent climate change-related extreme weather events create circumstances where existing infectious microorganisms flourish and novel infections emerge. Climate instability is linked to increased human migration, which disrupts health care infrastructure as well as the habitats of microbes, vectors, and animal reservoirs and leads to widespread poverty and overcrowding. Dermatologists should understand that climate change will affect the burden and geographic distribution of infectious diseases, many of which have cutaneous signs and might be encountered in their regular practice.

Keywords: Dermatology; Extreme weather events; Migration; Skin; Temperature; Vector-borne.

Publication types

  • Review