Climate change will increase the jump of viruses from animals to people

viruses animals people

Climate change will force wild animals to relocate their habitats, likely to areas with high human concentrations, dramatically increasing the risk of new viruses jumping from wild animals to people and potentially leading to the next pandemic.

The research you publish Nature With the use of models, it is predicted that by 2070 there may be some 15,000 new viral transmission events between species due to the reorganization of the distribution of mammals, driven by climate change in a scenario of warming of two degrees Celsius.

This increased opportunity for viral exchange may increase the risk of emerging infectious diseases jumping to humans, especially in the densely populated areas of tropical Africa and Southeast Asia, says research that warns, in particular, about bats.

The team led by Colin Carlson of Georgetown University in the United States looked at how the geographic ranges of 3,139 mammal species might change in response to different climate scenarios by 2070.

The authors note that since warming is already underway, climate-driven changes in species dispersal points and virus evolution may already be occurring, adding that keeping temperature rises below the two degrees centigrade in this century may not reduce the development of these events.

The process “even now it is possible that it is taking place and, for the most part, is going unnoticed” and that it cannot be prevented “even in the best scenario of climate change”, George Albery said in a virtual press conference, one of the authors of the study from Georgetown University.

The movement of animals will cause many to meet and form entirely new communities, which would be a “new and potentially devastating mechanism for the emergence of new diseases that may threaten the health of animal populations in the future and with possible ramifications also for our health,” he said.

For this reason, he stressed, it is necessary to establish surveillance systems for the movement of wild animals and their diseases and create infrastructures that protect their health and that of people.

The next decades will not only be warmer due to climate change, but also with more diseases, the expert considered.

Carlson stressed, for his part, that these changes are not being followed, which make “the risk of pandemics a problem for everyone.”

At least 10,000 virus species have the ability to infect humans, but the vast majority currently circulate silently in wild mammals.

As a whole, the study suggests that climate change will become the main factor in the origin of the risk of the appearance of diseases, above problems such as deforestation, the wildlife trade and industrial agriculture.

New virus exchange events are predicted to be predominantly driven by bats, which are likely to harbor viruses with a high probability of being transmissible to humans.

Carlson explained the situation with an analogy to point out that this situation resembles “the risks we see in the wildlife trade.”

The team leader pointed out, in a statement from his university, that the markets concern us because putting together unhealthy animals in unnatural combinations creates opportunities for this process.

But markets are no longer “special” places; in a changing climate, that kind of process will be the reality in nature almost everywhere”

The team recommends combining wildlife disease surveillance with real-time studies of environmental change.

“When a Brazilian tailless bat arrives in Appalachia,” Carlson said, “we need to know what virus is accompanying it,” to try to detect host jumps in real time, which is “the only way to prevent this process from leading to more spillovers.” and more pandemics, “said the expert.

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