Mosquitoes could bring diseases such as dengue fever and West Nile virus to the UK within the next few decades, scientists warned today, calling for monitoring the global trade in used tyres from Asia to prevent mosquitoes eggs being transported to new habitats and environments.
Scientists from the emergency response department at Public Health England, said there were already 34 different species of mosquito in the UK.
Writing in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, they said warmer temperatures in the UK in future could provide ideal conditions for the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), which spreads the viruses that cause dengue and chikungunya.
Using climate change modelling, the report predicted that the seasonal activity of ticks, mosquitoes and parasites could increase if temperatures increased by more than a few degrees, especially in southern England.
But since such a rise cannot be accurately predicted, the report conceded that the direct effects of a climate change could not be predicted confidently either.
Mosquitoes and ticks are known to be highly responsive to changes in temperature and rainfall.
They said warmer UK temperatures could make conditions favourable for the insects to breed.
However, climate change is just one of many factors in the spread of diseases.
Dr Jolyon Medlock, joint author of the report and head of medical entomology at Public Health England, said all invertebrates were affected by changes in temperature.
“They develop faster at higher temperatures so during a mild winter they won’t be killed off.
“In summer they will then be more abundant, although dry summers are not good for mosquitoes. But they can survive in water butts in gardens.”
He said mosquitoes often laid their eggs in places which had become flooded.
Those species originating in Asia have probably been imported into the UK through the global trade in used tyres.
These tyres can often be transported large distances along motorways, moving the eggs to new habitats and environments.
Medlock said that although no non-native mosquitoes had been detected in the UK so far, “a better system to monitor imported used tyres needs planning”.
He said Public Health England had been conducting surveillance at seaports, airports and some motorway service stations.