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Predictive Modeling System Could Help Prevent Zoonotic Diseases

The Conversation: How humans interact with the changing environment is affecting the spread of infectious disease
Konstans Wells, research lecturer in ecology and global change biology at Swansea University, and Nicholas J. Clark, postdoctoral fellow in disease ecology at the University of Queensland

“Some of the world’s most notorious infections … come from zoonotic diseases. These illnesses are caused by pathogens … which can be passed from animals to humans. But … [w]e don’t yet fully understand how pathogens ‘shift’ between different host species and cause epidemics — and research is starting to show that the changing environment could be a factor. … Studies have found that the environments around us — including different habitats as well as climate conditions — provide new opportunities for humans to pick up different pathogens from wildlife. … Implementing a system [that predicts when and where pathogens will be exposed to new host species] could help track the reemergence of diseases that are under control in humans and domestic animals, but still present in wildlife. It could also increase awareness of the large diversity of poorly studied pathogens which have unpredictable zoonotic capacity. … [B]y preempting global disease spread we can start to understand their origins and hopefully predict their movements” (5/9).