Environmental determinants of spatial and temporal variations in the transmission of Toxoplasma gondii in its definitive hosts☆
Ecological disturbances exert an influence on the emergence and proliferation of malaria and zoonotic parasitic diseases, including, Leishmaniasis, cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis, trypanosomiasis, schistosomiasis, filariasis, onchocerciasis, and loiasis. Each environmental change, whether occurring as a natural phenomenon or through human intervention, changes the ecological balance and context within which disease hosts or vectors and parasites breed, develop, and transmit disease. Each species occupies a particular ecological niche and vector species sub-populations are distinct behaviourally and genetically as they adapt to man-made environments. Most zoonotic parasites display three distinct life cycles: sylvatic, zoonotic, and anthroponotic. In adapting to changed environmental conditions, including reduced non-human population and increased human population, some vectors display conversion from a primarily zoophyllic to primarily anthrophyllic orientation. Deforestation and ensuing changes in landuse, human settlement, commercial development, road construction, water control systems (dams, canals, irrigation systems, reservoirs), and climate, singly, and in combination have been accompanied by global increases in morbidity and mortality from emergent parasitic disease. The replacement of forests with crop farming, ranching, and raising small animals can create supportive habitats for parasites and their host vectors. When the land use of deforested areas changes, the pattern of human settlement is altered and habitat fragmentation may provide opportunities for exchange and transmission of parasites to the heretofore uninfected humans. Construction of water control projects can lead to shifts in such vector populations as snails and mosquitoes and their parasites. Construction of roads in previously inaccessible forested areas can lead to erosion, and stagnant ponds by blocking the flow of streams when the water rises during the rainy season. The combined effects of environmentally detrimental changes in local land use and alterations in global climate disrupt the natural ecosystem and can increase the risk of transmission of parasitic diseases to the human population.