A changing climate might have significant impacts on the occurrences of animal-to-human disease transfer, including bird-flu and ebola, with environmental factors playing a larger role than previously thought.
According to the new research from a collaboration between the University of Queensland and Swansea University, animal-to-human diseases – known as zoonotic diseases – are increasingly affected by a changing climate.
Dr Nicholas Clark, from UQ’s School of Veterinary Science, said this was a new line of thinking in this area, changing how we understand, and tackle, emerging zoonotic diseases.
“These diseases are caused by pathogens – for example, viruses, bacteria or parasitic worms – that cross from animals to humans, including notorious infections like bird flu, rabies virus and Ebola,” he said.
“In the past, we’ve primarily looked at how many different types of animal species a pathogen infects – widely considered an indicator of its risk to shift between host species.
“But importantly, our research also shows that different environments provide new opportunities for pathogens to interact with and infect new host species.”
Dr Konstans Wells, from Swansea University, led the team’s review of a growing number of research studies, demonstrating that this ‘host shifting’, where a pathogen moves between animal species, is linked to the environment.
“Now that we know that environmental conditions are key, the question is: how can we develop models to predict disease moving between species in times of global environmental change?” he said.