JUN 19, 2016 8:43 AM PDT

Global patterns of zoonotic disease may predict transmission

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
A new study published in Trends in Parasitology reveals patterns that could be used to predict the locations of future zoonotic disease outbreaks.

Zoonotic diseases are diseases that infect animals and can be transmitted to humans. They can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi, and can be transmitted in a number of ways.
Zoonotic diseases impact human health.
Direct transmission can occur through the air or from direct contact with fluids like blood or saliva - influenza or rabies, for example. Alternately, zoonotic diseases such as West Nile virus can be spread by vectors like mosquitoes. Fun fact - fairs and petting zoos are actually hot spots for catching a zoonotic disease. In 2005, 63 people contracted E. coli O157:H7 from a Florida petting zoo exhibit.

In this study, researchers at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and the University of Georgia combed through the available data on zoonotic disease transmission. Their work uncovered patterns that show hotspots for disease transmission.

Some of these patterns surprised study author Barbara Han. “I was rather surprised to see that hotspots of zoonotic diseases didn't match hotspots of biodiversity more closely. For example, there is high species diversity in the tropics, so I expected to see a similar pattern of more zoonotic parasites and pathogens in the tropics as well. We do find more zoonotic hosts in the tropics, but we find more zoonotic diseases in temperate regions, possibly because these diseases can occur in multiple host species”, says Han.

That’s not the only surprise from the study. It turns out that more primates are zoonotic hosts than rodents. (See, stop giving rodents such a hard time.) Bats also carry the fewest zoonotic diseases. (Bats, you’re off the hook). Last, but not least, bacteria were the most abundant pathogens carried by mammals. (Sorry bacteria.)

According to Han, "understanding where animals are distributed and why may not seem applicable to our day-to-day lives … but the big breakthroughs that we need as a society (e.g., forecasting where the next zoonotic disease may emerge) rely on exactly this kind of basic scientific knowledge."
 
 
 
 
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
MAR 23, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
MAR 23, 2020
Diagnosing Cancer by Looking for Microbial DNA in the Blood
Liquid biopsies aim to diagnose a disease with only a bit of biological fluid, usually blood.
MAR 31, 2020
Microbiology
MAR 31, 2020
Researchers Suggest Repurposing Pancreatitis Drug to Treat COVID-19
As SARS-CoV-2 upends normalcy in the world, researchers are trying to find a treatment for the illness it causes.
APR 08, 2020
Microbiology
APR 08, 2020
How the Vaginal Microbiome is Connected to Preterm Delivery
New research has connected the composition of the community of microbes that populates the vagina with premature birth.
APR 29, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
APR 29, 2020
Saliva is Preferable to Deep Nasal Swabs for COVID-19 Testing
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Incre ...
MAY 15, 2020
Immunology
MAY 15, 2020
Support the Microbiome So the Immune System Can Do Its Job
Research has long connected the human microbiome and immune system function, and now a recent study pinpoints a key poin ...
MAY 25, 2020
Microbiology
MAY 25, 2020
Assessing the Risk of COVID-19 Posed by Various Summer Activities
While we know a lot more about the pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2 and the illness it causes, COVID-19, there are still many u ...
Loading Comments...