Human parasitology and parasitic diseases: Heading towards 2050.
By 2050 our civilized planet may be comprised predominantly of networked megacities embedded in warm subtropical and tropical climates, and under stress from climate change and catastrophic weather events. Urban slum areas in these cities, including those found in wealthier middle- and high-income nations (blue marble health), will be especially vulnerable to disease. Moreover, regional conflicts fought over shifting and limited resources, including water, will collapse health systems infrastructures to further promote disease emergence and reemergence. Thus while by 2050 we might congratulate ourselves for successfully eliminating some key parasitic and neglected tropical diseases such as dracunculiasis, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, and human African trypanosomiasis, there could be a commensurate rise in other parasitic diseases based on the scenarios highlighted above. Of particular concern are urban and newly urbanized helminth infections, including schistosomiasis and some soil-transmitted helminth infections, as well zoonotic helminthiases, such as toxocariasis, food-borne trematodiases, and cysticercosis. Protozoan infections persisting in urban environments, including leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, malaria, and intestinal protozoan infections, will also remain, as will zoonotic diseases such as toxoplasmosis. Our best hope to counteract the parasitic diseases emerging in our steaming 21st century megacities is to develop new and innovative technologies through gene editing, systems biology, and immunology, and the new single-celled OMICs. However, success on this front will require our ability to contain the globalization of antiscience beliefs and sentiments.