Global warming could trigger future pandemics by dramatically raising the risk of animal-to-human transmission of viruses, researchers warned on Thursday, highlighting another hidden and far-reaching cost of the climate crisis.
- As the planet warms, many animals will be forced to find new places to live, taking with them the parasites and pathogens they carry, researchers write in the journal Nature.
- The researchers studied how climate change could change the geographic range of about 3,100 mammal species by 2070 and how that could affect transmission of the virus between species.
- The researchers predict that even with the most optimistic climate projections (warming below 2°C), climate change will cause at least 15,000 new cases of virus crossbreeding by 2070.
- These “spring” events will be caused primarily by bats, which can travel long distances, are capable of carrying pathogens capable of infecting humans, and are widely believed to be the main source of Covid-19, the researchers said. be concentrated in densely populated areas of Asia and Africa.
- While it’s not clear exactly how the new viruses will affect the affected species, Dr. Gregory Albury, one of the study’s lead authors and a disease ecologist at Georgetown University, said it’s “likely” that many of them are “fueling the urgency of new epidemics.” in people”.
- With human activity causing temperatures to rise, this process may already be well underway, the researchers warned, adding that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may not be enough to prevent increased transmission of the virus between species.
The researchers warn that viruses that spread from species to species could also have a major impact on wildlife and its conservation. They said that about 3,700 different animals could first encounter 13 species that could spread the Ebola virus due to climate change. In addition to humans, the Ebola virus has had a devastating impact on primate populations, including endangered gorillas. The researchers said future work would benefit from studying other animals, especially 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. Outside of mammals, the bird ecosystem is best documented and is where we find the greatest number of viruses capable of transmitting to humans.
10,000. According to the researchers, this is the number of viruses that can infect humans. The vast majority of them “imperceptibly” circulate among wild mammals. Infections are generally rare, although they have become more frequent due to issues such as habitat destruction, the wildlife trade, and industrial farming, bringing animals into closer contact with humans.
Article translated from Forbes US – Author: Robert Hart
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