Some diseases won't need insects to boost their spread in a warmer world. Vibrio sp. bacteria, water-borne organisms responsible for diseases such as cholera and gastroenteritis, could be fertilized by the dust blowing off of parched deserts. Seafood, such as oysters, suck in Vibrio bacteria and can pass it on to people.
As climate change dries out West Africa and deserts expand, the wind may pick up more iron-rich dust and drop it into the oceans. Over the past 30 years, oceanic iron levels increased and seem likely to continue going up as Africa continues to bake and shed even more iron-rich dust, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That iron could fuel the growth of oceanic Vibrio bacteria in the ocean, which could subsequently infect seafood. At the 2011 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, University of Georgia researcher Erin Lipp presented her research on how iron pumps up Vibrio populations.
"Within 24 hours of mixing weathered desert dust from Morocco with seawater samples, we saw a 10-1000-fold growth in Vibrios, including one strain that could cause eye, ear, and open wound infections, and another strain that could cause cholera," said Erin Lipp of the University of Georgia in a NOAA news release.