JUN 06, 2020 7:44 AM PDT

Connecting Changes in Land Use to Emerging Diseases

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

It's estimated that an astonishing 75 percent of emerging pathogens that infect people are zoonotic - they originate in animals, including livestock or wildlife. They can be caused by infectious agents like bacteria, viruses, or fungi, and may be foodborne, or transmitted through proximity. Some can also move through air or water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around the world, zoonotic diseases cause around 2.5 billion cases of illness and kill 2.7 million people every year. 

With surveillance, proper hygiene, vaccines, and other preventive measures, the risks of some zoonotic diseases like rabies can be minimized. But others continue to pose a risk to public health, and new zoonotic diseases can emerge at any time. Like other coronaviruses, the pandemic virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be zoonotic.  

Reporting in Mammal Review and described in the video above, researchers have taken a look at how the way we use land has influenced the transmission of zoonotic diseases. Humans have had a dramatic impact on some ecosystems, causing deforestation, urbanization, and the conversion of land so it can be utilized for agriculture. This has all had an impact on the movement of zoonotic diseases.

The authors wrote that when the natural habitats of many species are reduced or removed because of changes in the way land is used, animals are forced to live closer to people, clearly creating interactions that are a source of zoonotic disease. In their review, the authors noted that these alterations in land use cause a change in animal behavior. Ultimately, that affects the way diseases emerge from different kinds of animals, including livestock and rodents.

The review also noted that more research is needed to help predict the emergence and spread of zoonotic disease in response to changes in land use.

"We highlight major gaps in our understanding of how land-use change affects the spread of diseases from mammals to humans in terms of how key hosts, like bats, are affected, and how important land-use changes, such as agriculture, impact wild mammals and their interaction with livestock," explained co-author Orly Razgour, Ph.D., of the University of Exeter, in the UK. "There is an urgent need for more studies that link animal ecology and responses to land-use change with pathogen ecology and disease spread."

Image credit: Carmen Leitch

"We need reliable surveillance and an understanding of how zoonotic diseases are able to spread to humans, but our results show that this information is not yet available for all hosts and pathogens. In fact, the epidemiology of many zoonotic pathogens is yet to be considered in relation to land use change at all, despite evidence suggesting that these changes can increase the risk of a disease emerging," added study co-author Rebekah White of the University of Exeter.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Wiley, Mammal Review

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 01, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Smell Cells Are Especially Good at Fighting the Flu
SEP 01, 2020
Smell Cells Are Especially Good at Fighting the Flu
All over the body, cells line organs and vessels, forming protective barriers. But pathogens like the flu have gained th ...
SEP 14, 2020
Microbiology
The Immune System Can Kill HIV with a Helper Molecule
SEP 14, 2020
The Immune System Can Kill HIV with a Helper Molecule
HIV attacks the human immune system's CD4 cells, a major player in the body's defense against pathogens.
SEP 23, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
How Heparan Sulfate Helps SARS-CoV-2 Enter Cells
SEP 23, 2020
How Heparan Sulfate Helps SARS-CoV-2 Enter Cells
In order to infect a cell, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has to find a way in. It can use receptors on the surface of cells that ...
OCT 05, 2020
Microbiology
Deadly Microbe Linked to Childhood Brain Disorder
OCT 05, 2020
Deadly Microbe Linked to Childhood Brain Disorder
Pediatric hydrocephalus - excessive fluid on the brain of a child - has been connected to a bacterial pathogen.
OCT 18, 2020
Microbiology
Mouth Microbes Play a Role in Oral Cancer Development
OCT 18, 2020
Mouth Microbes Play a Role in Oral Cancer Development
Oral hygiene is not only important for keeping teeth and gums healthy; it can also affect a person's health in general.
OCT 29, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
How Does the Immune System Handle the Microbiome?
OCT 29, 2020
How Does the Immune System Handle the Microbiome?
The human body plays host to trillions of microbes, and many of them live in our gastrointestinal tract; these microorga ...
Loading Comments...