Transition of the infectious disease panorama in the North

Birgitta Evengard

Div Infect dis, Dept Clin Microbiol, Umea University, Umea, Sweden

Arctic ecosystems have many things in common: they are nearly pristine, are facing rapid climate change and are subjected to increased tourism and trade with the rest of the world. At the same time they consist of cold-adapted species, making them particularly vulnerable to pressures like climate change and invasion by all types of organisms, including plants, animals and pathogens causing human diseases. An example is ticks moving northwards bringing with them a suitcase of micro-organisms such as the virus causing tick-borne encephalitis and the spirochetes causing borreliosis in humans. The more than 2 million semi-domesticated reindeer in the Arctic are at risk from the midge-borne virus blue tongue and the mosquito-borne West-Nile fever. Additionally, spreading plants (native and alien) and changes in species interactions are affecting biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Plants, animals, humans and pathogens in the vulnerable cold ecosystems of mountains and the far north, have thus far been neglected by scientists as well as policy makers. It is important to work across disciplines to address emerging biosecurity issues in cold environments.