New research sheds light on the factors—including the presence of trash—that put communities at risk of mosquito-borne diseases.

As warming temperatures make many parts of the world increasingly hospitable to mosquitoes, the risk for dangerous tropical illnesses, such as dengue infection and chikungunya, is expected to spread.

The first-of-its-kind study followed a cohort of 3,521 children in western and coastal Kenya from 2014-2018, testing them for evidence of three potentially deadly, mosquito-borne illnesses: dengue, chikungunya, and malaria. Researchers followed children because it was easier to understand when and where infections occurred in this younger cohort.

By mapping the infections and comparing them with demographic data they gathered, researchers found overlapping hot spots for all three diseases across multiple years. The hot spots were associated with the presence of litter near homes, crowded living arrangements, and relatively greater wealth.

The study, published in BMC Infectious Diseases, adds to a growing body of research that finds strong links between plastic trash and mosquito-borne illness. With formal trash collection still a burgeoning trade in Kenya, many households instead manage their waste by storing it outside their homes and eventually burning it. Plastic containers and rubber tires can hold water that pools during heavy rains, making an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.

“These findings underscore our growing concerns over the risks that trash, particularly plastic waste, poses to human health,” says senior author Desiree LaBeaud, a professor of pediatric infectious diseases and global health faculty fellow at the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health. “Empowering people to clean up trash from their communities is a clear win-win for human and environmental health.”

Read the full article about pollution and mosquito-borne disease hot spots at Futurity.