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Independent Examines Diseases That Jump From Animals To Humans

The Independent examines the expansion of human diseases that originated in animals. “At least 45 diseases that have passed from animals to humans have been reported to U.N. agencies in the last two decades, with the number expected to escalate in the coming years,” the Independent writes.

In the journal Bioscience, Montira Pongsiri, an environmental health scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency, and colleagues say the world is undergoing an “epidemiological transition driven by the destruction of plant and animal habitats, the loss of species and changes that have brought more humans into closer contact with animals than at any stage in human history,” the newspaper reports.

In the journal, Pongsiri and colleagues look at “five emerging and re-emerging diseases – malaria, lyme disease (spread by ticks), Hantavirus (spread by mice and rats), West Nile disease (spread by mosquitoes), and schistosomiasis (spread by freshwater snails). They argue that changes in land use, farming practices and climate lie behind the increasing number of outbreaks.” Pongsiri said, “We appear to be undergoing a distinct change in global disease ecology.”

The article includes comments from an ecologist and a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation official. It also highlights some infectious diseases, including HIV, that spread from animals to humans (Laurance, 1/4).