Bats and other wildlife are on display for sale at this market in Indonesia. (UC Davis)
As COVID-19 spreads across the globe, a common question is, can infectious diseases be connected to environmental change? Yes, indicates a study published today from the University of California Davis’ One Health Institute.
Exploitation of wildlife by humans through hunting, trade, habitat degradation and urbanization facilitates close contact between wildlife and humans, which increases the risk of virus spillover, found a study published April 8 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Many of these same activities also drive wildlife population declines and the risk of extinction.
The study provides new evidence for assessing spillover risk in animal species and highlights how the processes that create wildlife population declines also enable the transmission of animal viruses to humans.
“Spillover of viruses from animals is a direct result of our actions involving wildlife and their habitat,” said lead author Christine Kreuder Johnson, project director of USAID PREDICT and director of the EpiCenter for Disease Dynamics at the One Health Institute, a program of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “The consequence is they’re sharing their viruses with us. These actions simultaneously threaten species survival and increase the risk of spillover. In an unfortunate convergence of many factors, this brings about the kind of mess we’re in now.”
The common and the rare
For the study, the scientists assembled a large dataset of the 142 known viruses that spill over from animals to humans and the species that have been implicated as potential hosts. Using the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, they examined patterns in those species’ abundance, extinction risks and underlying causes for species declines.
The data show clear trends in spillover risk that highlight how people have interacted with animals throughout history. Among the findings:
- Domesticated animals, including livestock, have shared the highest number of viruses with humans, with eight times more zoonotic viruses compared to wild mammalian species. This is likely a result of our frequent close interactions with these species for centuries.
- Wild animals that have increased in abundance and adapted well to human-dominated environments also share more viruses with people. These include some rodent, bat and primate species that live among people, near our homes, and around our farms and crops, making them high-risk for ongoing transmission of viruses to people.
- At the other end of the spectrum are threatened and endangered species. This includes animals whose population declines were connected to hunting, wildlife trade and decreases in habitat quality. These species were predicted to host twice as many zoonotic viruses compared to threatened species that had populations decreasing for other reasons. Threatened and endangered species also tend to be highly managed and directly monitored by humans trying to bring about their population recovery, which also puts them into greater contact with people. Bats repeatedly have been implicated as a source of “high consequence” pathogens, including SARS, Nipah virus, Marburg virus and ebolaviruses, the study notes.
“We need to be really attentive to how we interact with wildlife and the activities that bring humans and wildlife together,” Johnson said. “We obviously don’t want pandemics of this scale. We need to find ways to co-exist safely with wildlife, as they have no shortages of viruses to give us.”
Study co-authors include Peta Hitchens of the University of Melbourne Veterinary Clinic and Hospital, and Pranav Pandit, Julie Rushmore, Tierra Smiley Evans, Cristin Weekley Young and Megan Doyle of the UC Davis One Health Institute’s EpiCenter for Disease Dynamics.
The study was supported by funding through the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threat PREDICT program and the National Institutes of Health.
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- 9 Great Reads From CNET This Week: Extinction, AirPods, Snap's Pixy and More
What science is telling us about extinction today, how Apple can help people who lose their AirPods, what it's like walking about with a selfie drone and a whole lot more.
- Wolverines once again proposed for Endangered Species Act protection
Wolverines are once again proposed to be listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. That’s the result of a Wednesday ruling in federal court that marked the latest swing in a ...
- This elusive Idaho animal could soon be protected under the Endangered Species Act
I’ve watched us lose our last caribou in the Lower 48. It would be tragic if we saw wolverines lost in the same way.” ...
- Court Restores Wolverine Protections While Agency Reconsiders Endangered Species Decision
The wolverine has regained candidate species status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) following a Montana District Court decision late Thursday. The Court agreed with conservation groups that the ...
- Lawsuit Launched to Stop Extinction of Guam’s Endangered Animals, Plants
The Center for Biological Diversity, Blue Ocean Law and Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian notified the U.S. Navy and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today that they intend to sue to stop the ongoing ...
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Spillover of viruses from animals
- Pet hamsters in monkeypox homes face quarantine in secure facilities over fears virus will spread via wildlife
The UKHSA has also raised concerns that monkeypox could be imported into the UK via pet rodents and exotic pets, because the animals do not require health certificates at borders ...
- AI could help us spot viruses like monkeypox before they cross over, and help conserve nature
When a new coronavirus emerged from nature in 2019, it changed the world. But COVID-19 won't be the last disease to jump across from the shrinking wild. Just this weekend, it was announced that ...
- Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic
As globalization spreads and as we destroy the ancient ecosystems, we encounter strange and dangerous infections that originate in animals but that can be transmitted to humans. Diseases that were ...
- Monkeypox Spread Highlights Need To Take All Necessary Steps To Prevent Zoonotic Spillover Of Viruses
The Executive Director of Preventing Pandemics at the Source (PPATS), Dr. Nigel Sizer, released the following statement today as monkeypox spreads worldwide and the Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly ...
- Characterizing spillover dynamics and global transmission patterns of avian influenza A viruses
Image Credit: hedgehog94/Shutterstock Prediction of spillover from wildlife to domestic animals and humans is ... For the H13 subtype, viruses were from three main clades, while H16 viruses ...