Global climate change is known to result in the emergence or re-emergence of some infectious diseases. Reliable methods to identify the infectious diseases of humans and animals and that are most likely to be influenced by climate are therefore required. Since different priorities will affect the decision to address a particular pathogen threat, decision makers need a standardised method of prioritisation. Ranking methods and Multi-Criteria Decision approaches provide such a standardised method and were employed here to design two different pathogen prioritisation tools. The opinion of 64 experts was elicited to assess the importance of 40 criteria that could be used to prioritise emerging infectious diseases of humans and animals in Canada. A weight was calculated for each criterion according to the expert opinion. Attributes were defined for each criterion as a transparent and repeatable method of measurement. Two different Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis tools were tested, both of which used an additive aggregation approach. These were an Excel spreadsheet tool and a tool developed in software 'M-MACBETH'. The tools were trialed on nine 'test' pathogens. Two different methods of criteria weighting were compared, one using fixed weighting values, the other using probability distributions to account for uncertainty and variation in expert opinion. The ranking of the nine pathogens varied according to the weighting method that was used. In both tools, using both weighting methods, the diseases that tended to rank the highest were West Nile virus, Giardiasis and Chagas, while Coccidioidomycosis tended to rank the lowest. Both tools are a simple and user friendly approach to prioritising pathogens according to climate change by including explicit scoring of 40 criteria and incorporating weighting methods based on expert opinion. They provide a dynamic interactive method that can help to identify pathogens for which a full risk assessment should be pursued.
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Global climate change is predicted to lead to an increase in infectious disease outbreaks. Reliable surveillance for diseases that are most likely to emerge is required, and given limited resources, policy decision makers need rational methods with which to prioritise pathogen threats. Here expert opinion was collected to determine what criteria could be used to prioritise diseases according to the likelihood of emergence in response to climate change and according to their impact. We identified a total of 40 criteria that might be used for this purpose in the Canadian context. The opinion of 64 experts from academic, government and independent backgrounds was collected to determine the importance of the criteria. A weight was calculated for each criterion based on the expert opinion. The five that were considered most influential on disease emergence or impact were: potential economic impact, severity of disease in the general human population, human case fatality rate, the type of climate that the pathogen can tolerate and the current climatic conditions in Canada. There was effective consensus about the influence of some criteria among participants, while for others there was considerable variation. The specific climate criteria that were most likely to influence disease emergence were: an annual increase in temperature, an increase in summer temperature, an increase in summer precipitation and to a lesser extent an increase in winter temperature. These climate variables were considered to be most influential on vector-borne diseases and on food and water-borne diseases. Opinion about the influence of climate on air-borne diseases and diseases spread by direct/indirect contact were more variable. The impact of emerging diseases on the human population was deemed more important than the impact on animal populations.
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