Archive for the ‘Pandemics’ Category

U.S. sees first case of bacteria resistant to all antibiotics

Friday, May 27th, 2016
  • This story has been on its way for a very long time.  I recall the possibility being discussed when I was in University studying Microbiology in the 1970’s.  We are our own worst enemies.  We don’t use antibiotics intelligently and this is the result – bugs that become immune to the best weapons we have against them.


  • Update on this story here.  It’s not as bad as it first sounded.  Thx Alan T. for the research.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

U.S. health officials on Thursday reported the first case in the country of a patient with an infection resistant to all known antibiotics, and expressed grave concern that the superbug could pose serious danger for routine infections if it spreads.

“We risk being in a post-antibiotic world,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, referring to the urinary tract infection of a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman who had not traveled within the prior five months.

Frieden, speaking at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington, D.C., said the infection was not controlled even by colistin, an antibiotic that is reserved for use against “nightmare bacteria.”

The infection was reported Thursday in a study appearing in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology. It said the superbug itself had first been infected with a tiny piece of DNA called a plasmid, which passed along a gene called mcr-1 that confers resistance to colistin.

“(This) heralds the emergence of truly pan-drug resistant bacteria,” said the study, which was conducted by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of mcr-1 in the USA.”

The study said continued surveillance to determine the true frequency of the gene in the United States is critical.

“It is dangerous and we would assume it can be spread quickly, even in a hospital environment if it is not well contained,” said Dr. Gail Cassell, a microbiologist and senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School.

But she said the potential speed of its spread will not be known until more is learned about how the Pennsylvania patient was infected, and how present the colistin-resistant superbug is in the United States and globally.

The colistin-resistant gene was found last year in people and pigs in China. That discovery followed a different superbug gene that emerged in India in 2010.

In the meantime, Cassell said people can best protect themselves from the superbug and from other bacteria resistant to antibiotics by thoroughly washing their hands, washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly and preparing foods appropriately.

She said experts have warned since the 1990s that especially bad superbugs could be on the horizon, but few drugmakers have attempted to develop drugs against them.

“The medicine cabinet is threadbare because not enough has been done.”

  • To the original article:  

Teacher NZ’s first victim of superbug

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

– This story is a first for New Zealand but it will not be the last.  

– All around the world, antibiotic resistance, among virulent strains of bacteria, is rising as a result of the indiscriminate and careless application of antibiotics.

– The problem is that people are prescribed a course of antibiotics but they only take part of them.  They decide, all on their own and against medical advice, that they feel fine and don’t need to finish the entire course.

– But what happens, when you are taking a course of antibiotics, is that the weakest of the bugs succumb first to the drugs and it takes until near the end of the course before the strongest and most resistant of the bugs succumbs.

– So, if you stop early, you’ve only killed the weakest ones and the strongest one survive and carry on.  

– When such bugs pass through person after person, each of whom doesn’t complete the course, the net effect is like a filter that acts to concentrate and strengthen and nastiest of the bugs.  

– And, eventually, the bugs strength and resistance is such that antibiotics will no longer touch them.

– People have misused antibiotics in this way since they were invented.  

– For a long time, the answer to increasing resistance was to invent or discover a new antibiotics to deal with the bugs that had become resistant to other antibiotics.

– But, it has become more and more difficult to invent or discover new antibiotics even as the abuse of the existing antibiotics continues.

– So, the net effect world-wide is that the bugs are getting stronger and the antibiotics less effective and there will be a time, soon, when we will return to the bad-old-days; the way they were before we had antibiotics.

– So, unless we discover some new antibiotics, those bad-old-days, which are soon to come again, will be upon us.  And simply being near someone with, say, tuberculosis could be a death sentence.

– Think about this the next time someone coughs near you in public.

– There are several morals to this story, if such things appeal to you:

– (1) No single rain drop thinks it is responsible for the flood.

– (2) Electing politicians who don’t ‘believe’ in science is a sure guarantee of future pandemics.

– (3) Thinking about where you live in terms of population density, the quality of your medical care and the level of intelligence among your politicians – these things are in your best interest.

– (4) If you think this is not happening around you, you’ve been ignoring science and the warnings it has been issuing for a long time now.

– And remember, nature doesn’t care what you ‘believe’.   And nature bats last.

– dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

He died fighting a superbug that no antibiotic in the world could touch.

Wellington teacher Brian Pool is believed to be New Zealand’s first victim of an aggressive superbug, caught while he was overseas, that is resistant to every type of antibiotic.

Pool, 68, spent most of the last six months of his life in quarantine, unable to leave his room even to sit in the courtyard.

“It was sad because we couldn’t give him a hug, we couldn’t really kiss him,” twin sister Maureen Dunn said.

“He just wanted to get out in the sun, and we couldn’t take him out.

“Being his twin sister, I would be the one who always rescued him . . . it was terrible, but there was nothing we could do.”

Her brother died on July 6, from complications caused by a stroke and unrelated to the bug.

But doctors say his immune system was weakened by fighting the nightmare bacteria.

The adventurous teacher, known for his quirky sense of humour, was living in Vietnam and teaching English when he suffered a brain haemorrhage on January 6.

He had surgery in Vietnam, where part of his skull was removed to relieve pressure on his brain, and was flown to New Zealand.

In Wellington Hospital, he was immediately isolated, a standard precaution for overseas patients.

Tests revealed he was carrying a strain of bacterium known as KPC-Oxa 48 – a “pan-resistant” organism that repels every kind of antibiotic.

“Nothing would touch it. Absolutely nothing,” Wellington Hospital clinical microbiologist Mark Jones said yesterday.

“It’s the first one that we’ve ever seen that is resistant to every single antibiotic known.

“This man was in the post-antibiotic era, and this is why so many agencies over the world are raising alarm bells.”

Earlier this year, British chief medical officer Sally Davies described resistance to antibiotics as a “catastrophic global threat” that should be ranked alongside terrorism.

New Zealand hospitals are already seeing increasing cases of multi-resistant “superbugs”, which can be treated by only a limited number of expensive antibiotics.

Dunn said the family was frightened, and even Mr Pool’s doctors did not seem to know what the superbug might do.

“They were shit scared, to put it bluntly, in case these bugs were transferred to another patient or taken out into the community.”

– To the original story:  

– Still doubtful, Sweet Pea?   Check this out:


‘Uncomfortable’ climates to devastate cities within a decade, study says

Monday, November 4th, 2013

– This is what John Roach of NBC News has to say on October 9th, 2013

– But this has all been coming, writ large, for a long time.  

-It’s been coming since:

Lyndon Johnson discussed the CO2 we were putting into the atmosphere in 1965.

Since the Club of Rome discussions and their paper on “The Limits to Growth” in 1972.

Since the World Scientists issued their warning to Humanity in 1992.

– But it is only just now beginning to reach the evening news as plausible news.  

– We have just a few greedy, self-centered people and corporations to thank for the fact that their misinformation has been instrumental in delaying humanities waking up on these threats until it is virtually too late.  

Most recently, Naomi Oreskes showed us this in her book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

– Some of us remember how Mussolini ended up.   I wonder, when the damages are finally appreciated, if these folks may fare the same.   I won’t cry any crocodile tears for them; that’s for sure.  

-By their actions many, many millions will die, cities and nations will fall, species innumerable will go extinct and most of our descendants will have less than optimal lives to look forward to; if they manage to live through the changes that are coming.

– dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Lesser daysThe world is hurtling toward a stark future where the web of life unravels, human cultures are uprooted, and millions of species go extinct, according to a new study. This doomsday scenario isn’t far off, either: It may start within a decade in parts of Indonesia, and begin playing out over most of the world — including cities across the United States — by mid-century.

What’s more, even a serious effort to stabilize spiraling greenhouse gas emissions will only stave off these changes until around 2069, notes the study from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, published online Wednesday in the journal Nature. The authors warn that the time is now to prepare for a world where even the coldest of years will be warmer than the hottest years of the past century and a half.

“We are used to the climate that we live in. With this climate change, what is going to happen is we’re going to be moving outside this comfort zone,” biologist Camilo Mora, the study’s lead author, told NBC News. “It is going to be uncomfortable for us as humans and it will be very uncomfortable for species as well.”

– To Read More of this article:  

– Still with the doubts, Sweetpea?   Then please read this:


Naomi Klein: How science is telling us all to revolt

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

– I don’t think the best of our idealists are going to be going out on Greenpeace ships any more to protest politely.   Not when they stand to lose the most of their young lives sitting in Russian prisons for the crime of idealism and the crime of trying to wake people up to the stupidity and danger gathering all around us.

– The days or holding signs and protesting peacefully are withering away all over the world as people realize that none of that has been effective.   And now it is become downright dangerous.

– I first read that an ecologically sane world and the world of Capitalism may not be compatible bedfellows on this planet back in 2008 when I read The Bridge at the Edge of the World by James Gustave Speth; Yale University.   He is and has been a major leading light in all things environment in the U.S. and he’s been a team player all along.  So, this was a hard conclusion for him to come to.

– In the article, below, Naomi Klein tells us that others up and down the line are coming to the same conclusions.  

– If what we’ve been doing isn’t working and losing is not an option for those of us who love this world and our children, then quite simply, new measures will be needed.

– dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data – and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.

In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012,Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

– More:  


End of an Era

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

– Parents, it is time to think about where your children are going to be when the sh** hits the fan.  I don’t think we’re going to avoid this mess but you could shift them to a place where another generation or two might have reasonable lives.   If you think that might be in a big city in the U.S., I think you are missing the point.

– Dennis

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 25th June 2012

It is, perhaps, the greatest failure of collective leadership since the first world war. The Earth’s living systems are collapsing, and the leaders of some of the most powerful nations – the US, the UK, Germany, Russia – could not even be bothered to turn up and discuss it. Those who did attend the Earth summit last week solemnly agreed to keep stoking the destructive fires: sixteen times in their text they pledged to pursue “sustained growth”, the primary cause of the biosphere’s losses(1).

The future

The efforts of governments are concentrated not on defending the living Earth from destruction, but on defending the machine that is destroying it. Whenever consumer capitalism becomes snarled up by its own contradictions, governments scramble to mend the machine, to ensure – though it consumes the conditions that sustain our lives – that it runs faster than ever before.

The thought that it might be the wrong machine, pursuing the wrong task, cannot even be voiced in mainstream politics. The machine greatly enriches the economic elite, while insulating the political elite from the mass movements it might otherwise confront. We have our bread; now we are wandering, in spellbound reverie, among the circuses.

We have used our unprecedented freedoms, secured at such cost by our forebears, not to agitate for justice, for redistribution, for the defence of our common interests, but to pursue the dopamine hits triggered by the purchase of products we do not need. The world’s most inventive minds are deployed not to improve the lot of humankind but to devise ever more effective means of stimulation, to counteract the diminishing satisfactions of consumption. The mutual dependencies of consumer capitalism ensure that we all unwittingly conspire in the trashing of what may be the only living planet. The failure at Rio de Janeiro belongs to us all.

– More…

Health chief warns: age of safe medicine is ending

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

This story has been building for decades.  From nearly the time when the first antibiotic, penicillin, was put into use.  

– I’ve commented before that I believe one of the answers to the general question:

What is wrong with we Human beings that we are so dysfunctional and self-destructive?

involves an inborn bias.  

– I.e., in acting out our evolutionarily derived nature, we tend to over value things that are concrete, now and near.  

– And, correspondingly, we tend to under value things that are abstract, then and far. 

– Hence, I use the word ‘bias‘ because rationally and logically, all of these things should have equal value.

– That we’d have a bias makes good sense because while we were evolving, in a survival of the fittest world, those of us that tended to favor the concrete, now and near aspects of their environment, probably survived better than those who did not.

– But, this is a new world now and the threats to ourselves and our futures are much more dependent on the abstract, then and far aspects of our world. 

– So, our inborn short-shortsightedness is shown clearly in the problems we’re having now with antibiotics and the growing bacterial resistance to them.  

– Most of us don’t understand why bacterial resistance to antibiotics arises (too abstract).  And when the problem does arise (which it will, whether we understand it or not), it will arise in some future time and place (then and far).  So, all of these factors tend to cause us to devalue the problem’s potential.

– But abstract, then and far as the issue of bacterial antibiotic resistance might have seemed in the past, it is manifesting now and we will unavoidably reap what we’ve sown.

– Personally, I find the idea that we might start dying again from diseases we’d already largely conquered like Tuberculosis, completely repugnant.

– Dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

The world is entering an era where injuries as common as a child’s scratched knee could kill, where patients entering hospital gamble with their lives and where routine operations such as a hip replacement become too dangerous to carry out, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.

There is a global crisis in antibiotics caused by rapidly evolving resistance among microbes responsible for common infections that threatens to turn them into untreatable diseases, said Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO.

Addressing a meeting of infectious disease experts in Copenhagen, she said that every antibiotic ever developed was at risk of becoming useless.

“A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”

She continued: “Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise in Europe, and elsewhere in the world. We are losing our first-line antimicrobials.

“Replacement treatments are more costly, more toxic, need much longer durations of treatment, and may require treatment in intensive care units.

“For patients infected with some drug-resistant pathogens, mortality has been shown to increase by around 50 per cent …”

Britain has seen a 30 per cent rise in cases of blood poisoning caused by E. coli bacteria between 2005 and 2009, from 18,000 to more than 25,000 cases.

Those resistant to antibiotics have risen from 1 per cent at the beginning of the century to 10 per cent.

The most powerful antibiotics are carbapenems, which are used as a last line of defence for the treatment of resistant infections.

In 2009, carbapenem-resistant K. pneumoniae, a bug present in the gut, were first detected in Greece but by the following year had spread to Italy, Austria, Cyprus and Hungary.

The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the percentage of carbapenem-resistant K. pneumoniae had doubled from 7 per cent to 15 per cent. An estimated 25,000 people die each year in the European Union from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

– More…


Nature’s sting: The real cost of damaging Planet Earth

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

You don’t have to be an environmentalist to care about protecting the Earth’s wildlife.

Just ask a Chinese fruit farmer who now has to pay people to pollinate apple trees because there are no longer enough bees to do the job for free.

And it’s not just the number of bees that is dwindling rapidly – as a direct result of human activity, species are becoming extinct at a rate 1,000 times greater than the natural average.

The Earth’s natural environment is also suffering.

In the past few decades alone, 20% of the oceans’ coral reefs have been destroyed, with a further 20% badly degraded or under serious threat of collapse, while tropical forests equivalent in size to the UK are cut down every two years.

These statistics, and the many more just like them, impact on everyone, for the very simple reason that we will all end up footing the bill.

Costing nature

For the first time in history, we can now begin to quantify just how expensive degradation of nature really is.

A recent, two-year study for the United Nations Environment Programme, entitled The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb), put the damage done to the natural world by human activity in 2008 at between $2tn (£1.3tn) and $4.5tn.

At the lower estimate, that is roughly equivalent to the entire annual economic output of the UK or Italy.

A second study, for the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), puts the cost considerably higher. Taking what research lead Dr Richard Mattison calls a more “hard-nosed, economic approach”, corporate environmental research group Trucost estimates the figure at $6.6tn, or 11% of global economic output.

This, says Trucost, compares with a $5.4tn fall in the value of pension funds in developed countries caused by the global financial crisis in 2007 and 2008.

Of course these figures are just estimates – there is no exact science to measuring humans’ impact on the natural world – but they show that the risks to the global economy of large-scale environmental destruction are huge.

– More…

Rust never sleeps

Friday, September 17th, 2010

– Recognizing patterns in the vast river of data that passes us by each day is one way to see the future.  But, unfortunately, our attention span is generally too short and we’ve not trained ourselves to be observant in this way,

– You may have seen a story like this a year or two ago and noted it and forgotten it.  It’s easily done.

– When I searched this, my own, site for “wheat rust“, I was surprised how many stories I’d already reported on this subject.

– It’s a bit scary how much passes us unseen in the river.  But I believe most of our futures are there if we just look….

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

A new flare-up in an age-old battle between wheat and a fungal killer

Scientists everywhere have taken up arms against the rust. Tens of thousands of wheat varieties and wild relatives have been screened for anti-rust genes that can be incorporated into future arsenals. This spring, more than 500 researchers from 77 wheat-growing nations gathered for two major wheat conferences in St. Petersburg, Russia, to share strategies and discuss progress on various fronts. And in August, a team of British scientists released a very rough sketch of wheat’s genetic blueprint, which in a more complete form could simplify and speed up the breeding of rust-resistant varieties.

“There is a lot happening,” says wheat geneticist Jorge Dubcovsky of the University of California, Davis. “We are trying to develop better technologies, better breeding approaches.… I think at some point we will defeat the bastard.”

But scientists also lament a lack of funding, coordinated action and basic knowledge about wheat and its pathogens. A great deal more effort is needed to turn the first crack at wheat’s genome into information that’s meaningful for fighting the rust.

Worldwide, only a handful of labs do hard-core rust-related research, and many will accept samples of the fungus only during the winter months, when it’s too cold for potential escapees to survive. The rust is so feared that some trigger-happy researchers frantically deploy plants bred with single resistance genes — even though most scientists agree that a well-constructed genetic cocktail offers the best hope for staving rust off.

Rust’s reemergence

Wheat rust’s current rampage began more than a decade ago. In October of 1998, a plant breeder noticed a stem rust infection on wheat growing in his nursery at Kalengyere Research Station in Uganda. The discovery was perplexing because the wheat contained a gene called Sr31, which, along with a handful of others, had provided protection against the rust for more than a quarter century. A rust virulent enough to defeat Sr31 triggered alarm in the wheat community.

“Should the Sr31-virulent pathotype migrate out of Uganda, it poses a major threat to wheat production in countries where the leading cultivars have resistance based on this gene,” scientists from Africa and CIMMYT, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, wrote in Plant Disease in 2000.


SPREAD OF A KILLERStem rust strains that can overcome key resistance genes have recently spread across Africa and beyond. Some scientists worry that prevailing winds may soon carry spores to major wheat-growing areas of the Middle East and Asia.Redmal/iStockphoto, adapted by E. Feliciano

Those fears have since been realized. This extremely aggressive strain of the fungus, called Ug99 (for the place of discovery and the year that the samples were analyzed), spread to most of the wheat-growing areas of Kenya and Ethiopia by 2003. The fungus’ spores, easily windborne, reached Sudan in 2006. Ug99 then crossed the Red Sea into Yemen, the doorway to major wheat-growing areas in the Middle East and southwest Asia. Ug99 has now been sighted in Iran. And not only is the rust still on the move, but it is also mutating: Within the Ug99 lineage, scientists have identified seven variants that can overcome additional important resistance genes in wheat. One Ug99 variant that overpowers Sr31 and the gene Sr24 caused epidemics in Kenya’s crops in 2007. Another Ug99 relative has turned up in Ethiopia and South Africa, and Kenya reported in June rust infestations in 80 percent of inspected fields.

Ug99 has yet to rear its ugly spores in the Americas. But that doesn’t mean U.S. wheat farmers are rust- or worry-free. In North America, Australia and Europe, as well as in Asia and Africa, a sibling of stem rust — the stripe or yellow rust — is taking a toll. In 2003, yellow rust wiped out a quarter of California’s wheat crop. Last year, it devastated crops in China. This year, farmers in the United States, the Middle East and northern Africa have already reported serious yellow rust infestations.

“The presence of two virulent and highly aggressive yellow rust strains … at high frequencies at epidemic sites on five continents (including Europe) may represent the most rapid and expansive spread ever of an important crop pathogen,” researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark wrote in an editorial in the July 23Science.

– More…

Drug-resistant superbugs found in three US states

Friday, September 17th, 2010

BOSTON – An infectious-disease nightmare is unfolding: Bacteria that have been made resistant to nearly all antibiotics by an alarming new gene have sickened people in three states and are popping up all over the world, health officials report.

The US cases and two others in Canada all involve people who had recently received medical care in India, where the problem is widespread. A British medical journal revealed the risk last month in an article describing dozens of cases in Britain in people who had gone to India for medical procedures.

How many deaths the gene may have caused is unknown; there is no central tracking of such cases. So far, the gene has mostly been found in bacteria that cause gut or urinary infections.

Scientists have long feared this – a very adaptable gene that hitches onto many types of common germs and confers broad drug resistance, creating dangerous “superbugs.”

“It’s a great concern,” because drug resistance has been rising and few new antibiotics are in development, said Dr. M. Lindsay Grayson, director of infectious diseases at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

“It’s just a matter of time” until the gene spreads more widely person-to-person, he said.

– More…

Deadly warning as tropics advance

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

CANBERRA – A widening of the world’s tropical belt that will turn Sydney’s climate into that of Brisbane will hammer Aboriginal communities and the poor nations of Asia and the Pacific, new studies warn.

The studies say there is already evidence that the tropics are moving further north and south in a trend that will also extend the range of sub-tropical climates, drying out present fertile regions with devastating effects on health and food production.

James Cook University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sandra Harding said tropical climates had already moved more than six degrees of latitude beyond the traditional confines of the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, and were continuing to expand.

About half the world’s population, including most of its poorest and least educated, lived in tropical climates that were also home to 80 per cent of plant and animal species, and which generated about 20 per cent of the planet’s wealth.

“It is in the tropics where we have new and dangerous diseases evolving and spreading,” Harding said.

“According to genetic studies, about 80 per cent of infectious diseases arise in the tropics, with many new illnesses resulting from viruses that jump from animals to humans.