Climate change could trigger future pandemics, study finds

Researchers on Thursday shed light on another hidden and far-reaching cost of the climate crisis, warning that global warming could dramatically increase the risk of viruses passing from animals to humans in future pandemics.

Highlight

  • As the planet warms, many animals will be forced to find new places to live, carrying parasites and pathogens with them, researchers write in the journal Nature.
  • The researchers looked at how climate change could change the geographic range of about 3,100 species of mammals between now and 2070 and how it could affect virus transmission between species.
  • Even under the most optimistic climate predictions (warming below 2 °C), researchers estimate that climate change will trigger at least 15,000 new cases of virus crossing species for the first time by 2070.
  • According to the researchers, these “spillover” events will be driven primarily by bats – which can travel great distances, are capable of carrying pathogens capable of infecting humans and are widely believed to be the primary cause of Covid-19. source is considered. be concentrated in the densely populated areas of Asia and Africa.
  • While it is unclear how the new virus will affect the species involved, one of the study’s lead authors and a disease ecologist at Georgetown University, Dr. Gregory Albery said it is “likely” that many of them will “promote the urgency of new epidemics” in humans.
  • Human activity is causing temperatures to rise, a process already well underway, with researchers warning that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may not be enough to stop increasing virus transmission between species. can.
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tangent line

The researchers warned that viruses passed from species to species could also have dramatic effects on wildlife and conservation. He said around 3,700 different animals could encounter 13 species spreading the Ebola virus for the first time because of climate change. Beyond humans, the Ebola virus has had devastating effects on primate populations, including gorillas, which are threatened with extinction. The researchers said it would be useful in future work to study other animals, particularly amphibians — which are already battling a fungal plague that has wiped out at least 90 species — and marine mammals. It will also be important to understand the impact of climate change on birds and the pathogens they carry, the researchers said. Aside from mammals, the viral ecosystem of birds is the best documented and it is there that we find most viruses capable of being transmitted to humans.

Important numbers

10,000. According to the researchers, this is the number of viruses capable of infecting humans. Most of them are “meticulously” transmitted between wild mammals. Cases of contamination are generally rare, although they have become more frequent due to issues such as habitat destruction, wildlife trade and industrial agriculture, which bring animals into close contact with humans.

Translated from Forbes US – Author: Robert Hart

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