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Climate change and infectious diseases in the North (CLINF) -Russia extension

Published 2018-01-02

CLINF-R - Epidemiology of infectious diseases in a changing climate

with impacts on societies - expansion in Russia
The CLINF-Russia extension (CLINF-R) is an expansion of the CLINF-NCoE (Nordic Centre of Excellence) and will focus on the CLINF WP1 (“Human and animal diseases in the Nordic region: Retrospective data processing and modelling of future scenarios for locally applicable alert systems for Climate Sensitive Infections CSI”). CLINF is highly transdisciplinary and challenges current academic/ disciplinary homogeneity and boundaries, in order to produce new integrated knowledge capable of describing and predicting changes in human development in the Arctic. It will aggregate knowledge about the incidence of CSI, and model future incidences and scenarios for some of these infections.
The geographical area in the CLINF NCoE includes the northern part of the Nordic countries, together
with Iceland and Greenland and the European part of Russia. CLINF-R aims to expand the study
eastwards into Russia. Climate warming is occurring at a greater speed and magnitude in the Arctic
than in the rest of the world. The effects are most clearly felt in northern communities which depend
on natural resource use, and climate change is already affecting people, animals and the environment.
It is therefore pressing to identify the changes of most concern. A large knowledge gap exists
regarding the effects climate change has on CSIs, here defined as infections that depend on the natural
environment for their spread or persistence, e.g. their transmission to a new host or species may use
arthropod vectors, water or soil, or they use wildlife as a reservoir. Most of these diseases are zoonotic,
i.e., they may be transmitted between humans and vertebrate animals, in both directions. Our
hypothesis is that there is increased risk for a number of diseases, in particular zoonotic infections.
Zoonoses are crucial since globally more than 70% of emerging human infections are zoonotic.
The key objective of CLINF-R is the same as for the NoCE, but expanded into the vast realm of
Eastern Russia: to clarify the impacts of climate change on the geographical distribution and epidemiology of CSI and how this affects humans and animals, and especially animal husbandry households, which are particularly exposed and sensitive to CSI.
CLINF-R is designed to improve the direct links between the institutions and organisations involved,
and thereby initiate long-term partnerships and joint research projects. Included are activities such as
joint data collection and comparative data analysis, as well as joint pilot projects on sampling of
reindeer for baseline studies of CSI.
In the global scenario of thawing permafrost, the northern landscapes may transform into habitats
suitable for CSI, whereby Asian Russia and Siberia constitute an enormous CSI potential. We
hypothesise that the expansion of CSI into these areas will significantly increase the global distribution
of CSIs. Since these areas probably hold immunologically naïve human or animal populations,
significant societal effects may be expected. By including also East Russian data, CLINF-R intends to
investigate the geographic distribution and prevalence of chosen CSIs in order to estimate the
magnitude of potential new disease habitats, which is an issue of global strategic value.
In the CLINF NCoE, WP1 is central to the whole project. It will involve a concerted effort to
comprehensively describe the prevalence and incidence of CSI in humans and animals within the
region northwards of 56° N. At present no comprehensive analyses exist on how climate change will
affect CSI in the Arctic. CLINF WP1 will collect already existing data on CSI from animals and
humans. Serological analyses will be performed on sera stored at SSI/Copenhagen, from humans in
Greenland and from cohorts stored in different regions in the countries involved, including northwest
Russia. A tularaemia case study will be performed. A baseline analysis of infections in reindeer in the
Nordic countries, including Greenland, will be performed using next generation sequencing (NGS)
and serology. We will also use questionnaires and interview studies of reindeer and sheep herders, to get information on CSI threat perceptions and experiences, including traditional knowledge and gender aspects. In CLINF-R we will expand these activities eastwards.

Our Russian partners in CLINF-NCoE are Prof. Nikolay Tokarevich, Pasteur Institute/the NW State Medical University St. Petersburg; Assoc. Prof. Natalia Kukarenko, Northern (Arctic) Federal University, Arkhangelsk; Prof. Mikhail Voevoda, Institute of internal medicine, Siberian branch of Russian academy of medical science, Novosibirsk and in CLINF-R we will add new contacts from the Northern-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, eastern Siberia.